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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST Vol. 143, No. 2, March 2017 


Problems with Strieber 
and The Key 

HEINRICH MOLTKE 



ABSTRACT 

THE KEY by Whitley Strieber presents a conversation Strieber claims 
to have had with an otherworldly visitor offering a “new vision” of God 
and man along with previously unknown scientific knowledge and pre- 
dictions for the future. This article critically examines The Key and uses 
textual evidence from Strieber’s previous books, articles, and interviews 
to show that ideas purportedly originating with the visitor appear 
throughout Strieber’s previous work. This article notes that scientific 
assertions made in The Key, far from being new and unknown, draw on 
the popular scientific literature at around the time Strieber wrote The 
Key. This article also examines the controversy surrounding differences 
between The Key’s two published versions, suggesting that contrary to 
Strieber’s improbable claim that his 2001 text had been altered by “sin- 
ister forces” without his knowledge, Strieber authored the text of both 
editions. Strieber’s inability to notice the similarity between his own 
public statements and the “breathtakingly new” ideas presented by his 
visitor combined with his unsupportable charge of censorship against 
his own self-published book call into question his credibility as a bridge 
between intellectual culture and the experience of the otherworldly. 


X 


Page numbers in parentheses ( ) refer to the 2001 Walker & Collier edition of The Key 
unless otherwise noted. 

Numbers in superscript with brackets [ ] link to end notes. 

Quotations from digital texts are sic erat scriptum. 


© 2017 The Empty Man Ltd 


VERSION 1.05 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


PART ONE 


THE KEY was self-published by Whitley Strieber listing his company, 
Walker & Collier, Inc., as the copyright holder. 1 " Whitehall Printing Com- 
pany in Naples, Florida was used as printer/ 21 The book was available for 
purchase starting in January 2001 131 at Strieber’s website, whitleysworld. 
com, and could be ordered by telephone. 141 

A slim volume, The Key was 105 pages in length. The book consist- 
ed of four sections: The Master of the Key, The Conversation, Who Was He?, 
and The Prophecy of the Key. Of these, The Conversation contained what 
according to Strieber was a faithful transcription of a dialogue with 
an otherworldly visitor dubbed by Strieber the ‘Master of the Key’. The 
Conversation formed the main substance of the book at sixty-two pages 
long and nearly twenty thousand words. Two other sections, The Master 
of the Key and Who Was He? described what took place before and after the 
dialogue according to Strieber. The Prophecy of the Key was a set of glosses 
by Strieber on twenty or so excerpts from The Conversation. 


THE SCENARIO 

ACCORDING to Strieber in The Master of the Key, in the early morning 
hours of June 6, 1998 (a Saturday), 151 while on an author tour in Toronto 
and staying at the Delta Chelsea Hotel, a knock awoke him from a “deep 
sleep” (3). Confused and thinking it room service, Strieber went to the 
door and a man let himself into the room. At first ready to eject the man, 
Strieber in the course of a brief exchange became intrigued. Strieber 
would call the dialogue that followed “the most incredible conversation 
of my life” 161 and call Master of the Key an “awesome” and “extraor- 
dinary man”, 171 “the most brilliant person I have ever met” 181 with “the 
best mind I have ever encountered” (6). 

The ideas the Master of the Key presented Strieber with were “to- 
tally new and original”, 191 “deeply, profoundly new” (6), and “breath- 
takingly new” (5). There was a “soaring sense of newness” (79) to the 
ideas which according to Strieber were “unlike anything I had heard 
before”. 1101 The ideas involved a “completely new view of man and 
God”, 1111 a “new image of God” (6,7) that “lifted the veil between life 
and death” (7) by explaining “what the soul actually is and how death 
works”. 1121 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


The encounter seemed to last “about half an hour”. But according to 
Strieber “once our conversation was transcribed, it became obvious that 
more time was involved. He must have been with me for at least two 
hours” (5). The next morning, Strieber found that he had notes from the 
conversation which he had taken down in a yellow pad. By December 
2000, Strieber had “transcribed” the conversation 1131 calling the process 
“the most difficult writing struggle of my life” (7). The transcription 
would form the basic substance of The Key, a book that Strieber would 
call the “most important thing I have ever published”/ 141 saying in 2001: 
“I think it contains more of value than everything else I’ve written all put 
together”/ 151 and in 2003 “this is probably the most important book I’ve 
ever had the privilege of writing” and “[t]his is my great work. This is 
probably why I was born”. 1161 Strieber would even say of The Key in 2011: 
“I regard this as a sacred text”. 1171 


EVERYTHING HE SAID WAS NEW 

IT WAS FORTUNATE for Strieber that he took notes. The notes were 
“not extensive”, but they had a “mnemonic power” (5) that allowed him 
to recreate what was said. Indeed, according to Strieber in 2001, The 
Conversation is “eighty to ninety percent accurate”. 1181 Strieber has main- 
tained since its publication that The Conversation is a transcription of a 
conversation and not a fictional creation/ 191 and over time his confidence 
in its accuracy appears only to have increased, saying in 2011 that the 
transcription was “easily ninety percent accurate, maybe more”. 1201 

The Key certainly differed from Strieber’s previously published work. 
Strieber’s close encounter books were first-person narratives featuring 
gripping novelistic descriptions weakened by sometimes too-poetic 
ruminations and sprinkled here and there with occasional brilliant ideas. 
The Key took the form of a conversation, resembling a philosophical dia- 
logue inasmuch as the “new vision” of the Master of the Key seemed to 
reflect a sophisticated and coherent system. 1211 Unlike many philosophical 
dialogues, The Key is also successful as a literary creation. It effectively 
dramatizes a conversation with a real and possibly exceptional person. 
Strieber comes across as curious, out of his depth, and sometimes deeply 
moved, and there is a palpable tension as he tries to elicit answers from 
the Master of the Key. For his part, the Master of the Key speaks with 
a language that is compact and technical, but also evocative and poetic. 
Sometimes he refuses to answer questions put to him, and sometimes 


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he answers questions from an unexpected direction. His answers can be 
allusive or wonderfully clear, even aphoristic: ‘Being serves joy’; ‘path 
within, signposts without’; ‘in the fields, fear rides’. The reader gets the 
sense that the Master of the Key is someone who has much to say in a 
short amount of time. 

The Conversation is thus not the laundry list of assertions one might 
expect from an author using an invented figure as a mouthpiece. A good 
deal is said by allusion or by implication and the exact meaning is not 
always clear. In addition, a natural flow is maintained throughout giving 
the transcription of the conversation a certain believability. If one did 
not reject a priori the whole premise of the encounter, statements made 
by the Master of the Key might well be taken to suggest a whole body of 
authentically real knowledge. 

What did the Master of the Key figure say? At a glance, much of 
it — maybe even all of it — seems unheard of and new. Certainly none of 
it seems to reflect the prevailing orthodoxies of our day — as one again 
might expect of an established author championing private opinions. 

The following is a trajectory through the main points presented in 
The Conversation. 


KEY POINTS 

i. MANKIND is destined to “ascend or go extinct” over the next two 
thousand years (68). The earth can no longer “support” Mankind owing 
to “overpopulation” (13) and depletion of natural resources (56). Man 
was meant to leave the earth by now but because the Holocaust killed 
too many of Mankind’s “most intellectually competent members”, the 
“secret of gravity” was not “unlocked” (13). At the same time, a great 
calendar called the Zodiac was created which very precisely measured 
the rate of growth and the amount of time it would take for Mankind to 
run out of resources (56). Different ages mark different stages in Man’s 
evolution, and in the coming Age of Aquarius, Mankind must “surrender” 
(to God) and “return to the forest” or go extinct (43). Surrender and 
returning to the forest coincide with spiritual ascension since ego or 
self-will are what stand in the way of ascension (28), and ascension 
itself is a function of an evolutionary process in which the energetic 
body grows through the natural accumulation of lived experience (27), 
as souls are recycled into other bodies with deep dispositions (soul’s 
conscience, 74) and knowledge of past lives buried (33, 42). 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


2. THE UNIVERSE is elemental and energetic (29), with ‘elemental’ 
corresponding roughly to the physical, i.e. the periodic table of the ele- 
ments (i5). [22] The energetic covers a spectrum starting with unconscious 
energy, then conscious energy, which moves in the direction of radi- 
ance (15) the higher its spin and the greater its complexity (17). Conscious 
energy is something like unconscious energy brought to bear on itself (it 
“knows itself”, 63) which is a sufficient leap in complexity and intensi- 
ty that it is qualitatively different. The more intense, the more complex 
the more encompassing it is, the more it becomes radiant, until it reach- 
es ecstasy, which is the complete union of one with all. Ecstasy has no 
upper limit (29), more and more ecstasy always being possible. 

3. THE UNION OF ONE WITH ALL THINGS is possible by virtue 
of the universe’s holographic holism. Each part contains the whole and 
even God is a hologram, God being another name for the whole. How- 
ever, the degree to which this unity is known and enjoyed is the degree 
to which one is conscious in the energetic world. The ‘radiant body’ is 
the name for the part of us that is conscious in that world (42). Ordinary 
consciousness is able to access the radiant body through a series of tech- 
niques including meditation in which through practice one brings con- 
sciousness to bear on the energetic, i.e. objective sensation. This slow 
feedback loop, by duplicating and expanding upon the initial jump that 
brought about consciousness to begin with, increases the spin and com- 
plexity of the consciousness in question, i.e. its radiant body, allow- 
ing for more brushes with holistic information about the All (“You may 
haunt God”, 20) thanks to superposition. 

4. THE CHANGES that occur energetically when consciousness is 
brought to bear on itself using, for example, the power of attention can 
sufficiently alter and even strengthen that consciousness and its own 
energetic substratum so that it can cohere after the death of the physical 
body. Without meditation, what survives of the energetic body is frag- 
mentary, memories without someone to remember them or weak and 
partial personalities that haunt the places of their former selves. The 
dead see and hear everything that occurs in the world of the living. The 
barrier between the living and the dead is a shibboleth. The same goes 
for the natural and the supernatural in general; there is only one order 
of Nature if science would but recognize it. 


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5 . TWO THOUSAND YEARS of evolutionary pressures await mankind. 
Rapid climate change will climax in a sudden ice age counter-intuitively 
brought about through human-aided global warming. The melting of 
the polar ice cap will drive the north Atlantic current south resulting 
in a massive atmospheric upheaval producing hemispheric superstorms 
that will leave much of the northern hemisphere buried under snow 
long after winter has ended (the new ice age). Worldwide famine will 
result, and human population will be greatly reduced. Whether man goes 
extinct will depend on the extent he ‘surrenders’, but also whether he 
is able to construct an artificial intelligence smart enough to predict 
sudden severe weather quickly enough that he can stay ahead of it and 
protect himself. Such machine intelligence can be built using the gas 
nitrous oxide which will “bear memory” (64). This machine intelligence 
might become conscious bringing its own dangers. 

6 . NATURALISM of a sort broader than science currently can conceive 
awaits mankind’s discovery over the next two thousand years (“There is 
no supernatural [...] only the natural world”, 15). Phenomena previously 
considered supernatural will become accessible to science, though the 
ability of science to greet these phenomena and gain knowledge about 
them is a function of mankind’s overall spiritual development (22). 
Mankind will learn that there is a “science of the soul” (40), that even 
God can measured (51). The universe is populated by all sorts of life (46), 
energetic and elemental, and even sin is given a naturalistic definition 
(the denial of the “right to thrive”, 74). Likewise, consistent with the 
expanded natural order, if Man ‘surrenders’, laying a firm foundation 
in the radiant body in his ‘return to the forest’, he will survive past the 
end of the coming age and spread into the universe. If not, mankind will 
enter the “world of the dead” (41), waiting for new bodies to evolve that 
the souls of mankind may or may not be able to inhabit (30). 


THE KEY TEN YEARS LATER 

IN JUNE 2010 a short statement appeared on the Scovil Galen Ghosh 
Literary Agency website saying that The Key had been acquired by Mitch 
Horowitz at Tarcher in a “very nice deal”. 1231 

On November 26, 2010, just over a month before the ten-year anni- 
versary of the first publication of The Key, the announcement was made 
on Strieber’s website unknowncountry.com that The Key was being 


338 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


re-released by Tarcher/Penguin: 

The Key will be published by Tarcher Penguin in April, at which 
point we will phase out our original edition. This means that 
copies of The Key will become valuable collectors’ editions in the 
future, so they make great gift now, that will only appreciate in 
the future. [241 

On December 13, 2010, an official announcement was likewise made 
at the Tarcher website. 1251 The book now had a new subtitle, The Key: 
A True Encounter, mirroring the subtitle of Strieber’s famous bestseller, 
Communion: A True Story. 

On January 24, 2011, Strieber in his online blog Whitley’s Journal called 
the upcoming Tarcher a “revised version” of The Key: 

I will publish three books in 2011. In April my novel Hybrids will 
be published, as will the revised version of the Key. 

Confusingly, despite calling it a revision, Strieber also wrote that the 
conversation itself would not be changed: 

The core material of the Key, the conversation with the Master 
of the Key, remains unchanged, but there has been an incredible 
amount of scientific corroboration for what he said since we 
published our edition of the book. There really cannot be any 
question, now, that he was a truly remarkable individual, and I 
detail in the new introduction and afterword just how even his 
seemingly improbable predictions have turned out to be based 
on solid science. 1261 

The book was available for purchase in paperback and as an e-book 
from its official date of publication, May 12, 20ii. [27] An audiobook version 
was available from May 24, 20il. [2S1 

At 256 pages, the Tarcher contained all four of the main sections in 
the Walker & Collier edition. There were some differences as well: 

t a new dedication: the new 2011 version was dedicated to 
Strieber’s wife, Anne, saying “without her insistence, it 
would have been neither written nor published”. The 2001 
Walker & Collier had been dedicated to “the prophet Daniel, 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


and the great vision he left for our time” 
t a new Introduction 

t a new section called Fragmentary Inclusions with dialogue 
material Strieber could not fit into The Conversation 
t a new Afterword 

t an Appendix in which Strieber explains why he included 
sections from the Walker & Collier and announced that the 
Walker & Collier was “retired”. 

But the differences did not end there. To the surprise of many of 
Strieber’s fans, and to Strieber’s own intense consternation, the tran- 
scription of the conversation appearing in the Tarcher bore significant 
differences from the Walker & Collier’s. If The Key was a word-for-word 
transcription of a conversation that actually took place with someone 
who had access to unknown scientific knowledge and even to the 
divine — a man dispensing important truths to a mankind on the verge 
of extinction, why was there more than one version of what was said? 
What did the Master of the Key really say? How did what was not said 
get written? What followed was one of the most bizarre controversies 
involving an author’s relationship to his published work in recent times. 


PART TWO 


DIFFERENCES DISCOVERED 

THE DISCOVERY of differences between the Walker & Collier version 
of The Conversation in The Key and the Tarcher version was made by the 
present author on the day of the latter's release, May 12, 2011 . Posting 
to Strieber’s Facebook page, I asked why changes had been made to the 
text of the 2001 edition. 

Strieber responded, expressing surprise. According to Strieber, he 
had not altered the text, nor would he ever do so. I put together a short 
list of some two dozen differences noticed in a casual reading and sent 
them to Strieber by e-mail. 

Strieber said he was shocked, and that he had contacted the pub- 
lisher (Tarcher/Penguin) with the list of differences to get an expla- 
nation. Nevertheless, while being “mystified” by the changes, Strieber 


340 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


held that: 

They seem like small clarifications. None of them really change 
the meaning of the dialogue, but the fact that they exist at all is 
as peculiar as it is interesting. Not only that, the oddest part for 
me is that the new versions seem more familiar to me than the 
ones in the original edition. It's as if somebody has somehow 
corrected the book for accuracy. 

At this point, Strieber felt that the Tarcher’s differences from the 
original were “small clarifications” that were “more familiar” to him 
and presumably closer to his recollections than the text of the 2001 
Walker & Collier. But Strieber's attitude toward the nature of the dif- 
ferences would soon change. First, in a subsequent e-mail, Strieber 
declared that he had found the 2011 Tarcher’s “new versions” in his 
original manuscript. 

I have found all of them, except the typo changes such as 
Moslem to Muslim, in the manuscript I sent the publisher. 

Here is its history: After I finished it, I converted it into Page- 
maker and sent it to the printer, back in 2002. w The Pagemaker 
version is exactly the same as the printed first edition. I then 
converted the original manuscript to PGP encoded format and 
sent it to my secure server, where it has remained all these years. 

After Tarcher bought it, I took the ms. off the server and removed 
the encoding. Then I sent it along to the publisher. As it could 
not have been changed — I thought — I did not compare it to the 
original book. 

And yet, the changes are there. They were not made by the 
publisher. They were not made by me. Nobody but me has the key 
to the PGP file, so I really have no explanation for them. 

Strieber names two source files: a Microsoft Word file (original 
manuscript) and a PageMaker file (formatted manuscript). According to 
Strieber, The Conversation was written in Microsoft Word and once “fin- 
ished”, the text was then formatted in Adobe PageMaker. Adobe Page- 
Maker was a professional-level program used until 2004 by publishers 
to format a text for publication. A variety of decisions as to kerning, 
leading, page size are made in programs like PageMaker to prepare a 
text for the printing process. 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


According to Strieber, the PageMaker formatted version, which was 
“exactly the same as the printed first edition”, was sent to the printer 
(presumably as either a PageMaker file or as PDF). Then the “original 
manuscript” (MSWord file) was encrypted and put on his secure server 
for safekeeping. It was this file, Strieber claims, that was sent to Tarch- 
er for the 2011 edition, without any changes being made by him or the 
publisher to its content. 

In a reply sent on May 14 , 1 expressed the view that the Tarcher did 
not read like a corrected or clarified edition. Rather, because of prob- 
lems with the text that the Walker & Collier did not have, the Tarcher 
read as if its author had tinkered with it seeking to improve on it, ulti- 
mately weakening it. I highlighted three examples from the list previ- 
ously sent: 

I an obvious continuity problem in the Tarcher in which 
Strieber asks the Master of the Key to return to a topic that 
had not been discussed; the problem is not present in Walker 
& Collier 

t a clear instance where an answer to a question in the Tarch- 
er is confused and rambling in comparison to the Walker & 

Collier 

t a statement in Tarcher to the effect that Strieber's purport- 
ed implant was intended rather implausibly to protect him 
from mind control 

Here Strieber's attitude about the differences seemed to undergo an 
abrupt and dramatic change. Instead of answering the points, Strieber 
took to his blog and posted an entry on May 15, 2011, with the title “The 
Old Edition of the Key was CENSORED, the New One is Not”. [2) 

In a brief final reply of May 16, Strieber summed up his new view of 
the differences: 

If you look over the journal I wrote about it, the meaning of the 
alterations will become crystal clear. They were a very sinister 
and brilliant (and, for 10 years, successful) attempt to pervert and 
diminish critical parts of the dialogue. 

The differences existed because the Walker & Collier — already in 
print for ten years — had been the victim of “sinister” alteration. 


342 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Whitley’s Journal - May 15, 2011: 


CENSORED 


A few days ago, an astute reader informed me that there were 
differences between the new edition of the Key and the one I 
published in 2002. 

The 2002 edition, it turns out, was secretly censored by un- 
known parties. Crucial changes were made, that had the effect of 
obscuring and diminishing the message of the book. [...]. 

I provided Tarcher/Penguin with the same copy of the dialog 
between myself and the Master of the Key, dated November 16, 
2000, that I used in the creation of the first edition. 

My edition was changed by an unknown party. The current 
Tarcher edition reproduces the actual dialogue exactly, chang- 
ing only a few typographical errors and misspellings. Thus the 
Tarcher edition contains the actual, correct dialog, while the one 
I published in 2002 does not. 

The file that I sent to the printer of the original edition and to 
Tarcher is dated November 16, 2000. It was generated by con- 
verting the a Word file into PageMaker using the conventional 
process, which certainly wouldn't have led to the changes that 
appeared in the book. 

At some point prior to being printed, the file was edited by 
somebody other than me, and the edits resulted in crucially 
important changes. When I got the proofs back from the printer, 
they corresponded with the original, but when the book was 
actually printed, changes had been made. 

These changes are extremely subtle and brilliant. They were 
made by a skilled censor with a very definite agenda, which was 
to diminish the ways in which the dialogue offers empowerment 
to the reader. 

Since the proofs were accurate, I did not think to check the 
finished books, and thus have been unwittingly selling the edited 
version for ten years. 

I have to say that I am appalled and horrified by this, and ex- 
tremely glad that the actual conversation, as I remember it, has 
finally been published. 

I just thank God that the Tarcher edition contains the actual 
dialogue, as it was meant to be read. In a sense, therefore, the 
SECOND edition of the Key is really the first! [...] 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


THUS STRIEBER announced to his readers and to the world that his 
2001 self-published book had been altered by “unknown parties” in a 
way that amounted to censorship. In the Journal piece, Strieber referred 
to an “original” Microsoft Word manuscript file on his computer dated 
November 16, 2000, to which he claimed the new Tarcher corresponded. 
He also gave a series of interpretations of certain differences between 
the texts of The Conversation. (Hereafter these differences will be termed 
AK.) Among the words Strieber would use to describe differences unique 
to the Walker & Collier: “extremely sinister”, “disturbing”, “very subtle”, 
“outrageous”, and “sickening”. 

The sudden rejection of his own 2001 text as a product of censorship 
was as remarkable as it was inexplicable. But already a certain degree of 
confusion — perhaps obfuscation — was entering into Strieber’s account. 

In claiming he sent the same file “to the printer of the original edi- 
tion and to Tarcher”, Strieber was saying something hard to reconcile. 
According to his e-mail and his Journal, Strieber wrote the text in Mic- 
rosoft Word. That text was then imported into Adobe PageMaker where 
it was formatted for publication. Would Strieber have sent a PageMaker 
file to Tarcher ten years later? Even assuming backwards compatibility 
with a ten-year-old file, the Tarcher would be a different size book 
with different fonts chosen, a different interior design, and so on — all 
decisions to be made by Tarcher’s designers. The normal thing would 
have been to send the Microsoft Word file to Tarcher for these reasons 
and more. Tarcher would probably have requested it. Yet even less likely 
is Strieber sending his Microsoft Word file to a printing company as the 
printing company could have done nothing with it (and if so why use 
PageMaker?). The statement seems to be simply false, especially since 
Strieber says he used PageMaker for the Walker & Collier and sent a 
decrypted Word file to Tarcher. 

And what of the PageMaker file being “exactly the same as the 
printed first edition”? The Journal alleged that “at some point prior to 
printing” changes were made — this would have been post-PageMaker 
since the “proofs were accurate”. And if the proofs were “accurate”, 
for Strieber this meant that the proofs matched the Tarcher. But this 
contradicts what was said in the e-mail. If the changes — the Walker 
& Collier AK — were in the PageMaker file then they would have to be 
in the proofs. According to Strieber, they were not. Yet if the Walker & 
Collier AK were not in the PageMaker file, why did he say the PageMaker 
file was “exactly the same as the printed first edition”? Was it a mistake? 

Strieber’s account was certainly confusing. And given the confusing 


344 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


circumstances, one could certainly wonder why Strieber would denounce 
with a kind of desperate vehemence the text of his own Walker & Collier 
edition, calling a variety of often minor differences “extremely sinister”, 
“disturbing”, “very subtle”, “outrageous”, and “sickening”. 

Was Strieber’s reaction because he believed he was the victim of 
sinister forces interfering in his getting out the important message of 
the Master of the Key, his life, and his writing career? Was it because 
differences between the versions of The Conversation led him to doubt 
the reality of his ‘true encounter’? Was he in an apparent panic because 
the existence of differences might harm the new attempt at a more 
commercial edition of the book? 

One thing was certain whatever the confusion: Strieber favored the 
new Tarcher. He even favored it to the extent of obscuring at least one 
obvious problem with the 2011 text. 


MINORITY REPORT 

ON MAY 17, 2011, the present author posted an essay online in re- 
sponse to Strieber’s censorship claim and, in particular, to the set of 
interpretations that Strieber offered as proof the Walker & Collier had 
been ‘censored’. The essay gave alternate interpretations to the ones 
Strieber put forward, and took the view that because of flaws in the 
Tarcher, the Walker & Collier likely contained the more authoritative 
text. 

The essay noted that when Strieber reproduced the list of major 
differences sent to him in his Journal, he had omitted the first and least 
favorable to the Tarcher. It was a basic continuity problem. 

On page 23, the original 2001 Walker & Collier text reads as follows: 

What do the dead look like? 

The acts of life affect the appearance of the dead in every tiny 
detail. Everything is imprinted upon the soul, often in surprising 
ways. Most dead appear as innocent children, longing for sensual 
lives and hoping that a body will be sparked that fits them. Some 
are aware enough of radiant being to try to ascend, but they 
always drift back, or if they become lost, are returned to earth. 

However, in the Tarcher the question is replaced by this statement: “You 
mentioned monsters in the world of the dead.” 


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This creates a problem. At this stage in the dialogue (barely ten pages 
into the Walker & Collier), there has been no mention of “monsters in 
the world of the dead” or anything like it. Moreover, in both versions 
just before the line in dispute there is the following from the Master of 
the Key: 


We will return to that later. There is a question lingering in 
your eyes that you have not asked. Ask it now. 

The Master of the Key is telling Strieber to ask a question he is 
thinking of which the Master of the Key can evidently detect. While 
in the Walker & Collier what follows is a question, in the Tarcher what 
follows is a non-sequitur non-question. 

The essay discussed another less noticeable continuity problem: 

What has this all got to do with resurrection ? 

The resurrected man is a consistent theme of the mythology 
that developed out of observations of a certain type of being, 
beginning with Osiris and ending with Christ. Fully conscious 
beings adept in this science can enable the radiant body to appear 
as an elemental body, so perfectly imprinted are its sensations on 
their energetic being. 

The above exchange appears only in the Tarcher. It is dropped into a 
discussion of crop circles and why their reality is denied. In the Walker 
& Collier, the Master of the Key makes reference to “bodies”, to which 
Strieber asks in response in the Walker & Collier: “Is your body, right 
now, radiant?” The Tarcher interrupts this with the passage quoted 
above as another non-sequitur. 

Discussing these problems and some of the differences, the essay 
also made two passing observations. First, it noted that Strieber had 
read aloud from disputed passages during his audio commentaries on 
The Key. Some seven different audio commentaries were made by Strie- 
ber starting in 2003 during which he read selected passages from The 
Conversation and discussed them. While reading from and discussing the 
‘altered’ passages Strieber never signaled any problem. 

Second, it noted that there were affinities in wording between text 
unique to the Tarcher and the section called Fragmentary Inclusions which 
appeared only in the new Tarcher edition. 

Assuming that the Fragmentary Inclusions was left-out material 


346 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


dating to when Strieber first wrote The Key, and supposing Strieber’s 
claim that he sent Tarcher his Microsoft Word manuscript was true, the 
essay suggested that because of the weaknesses in the Tarcher — a text 
created before the PageMaker file — what we were seeing with Tarcher's 
The Conversation was probably an earlier stage of the writing process. The 
continuity problems and confused language were likely corrected in the 
PageMaker program when the book’s author was able to better see what 
his book would look like in print. Very few authors, the essay imagined, 
would be able to resist the temptation to make improvements to their 
text while staring at it for hours on end formatting it. 

All this, of course, would depend on Strieber’s clear assertion that 
he had not altered The Conversation in any way for the upcoming 2011 
Tarcher release. 


DREAMLAND 

STRIEBER took the unusual step of being interviewed as a guest on 
his own Dreamland program in a hastily arranged interview with guest 
host and bestselling conspiracy genre author, Jim Marrs. [3) Strieber was 
emotional, particularly during the first half of the interview, and his 
state could be described as panicked and overwrought. He stumbled, for 
example, over whether the 2011 Tarcher was the “old” or the “new” 
edition. But he was insistent that the Tarcher reflected his authorial 
intent, and maintained he was “shocked” and “absolutely appalled” at 
the differences. Strieber also steadfastly denied what was slyly being 
remarked by some on his website that the censorship claim was being 
made in order to encourage readers who already owned the Walker & 
Collier to buy the new Tarcher, telling listeners “don’t feel you need to 
buy the new book”. 

Strieber continued with his characterization of the differences as 
“changes” that were “absolutely sinister”. According to Strieber, “a lot 
of powerful material was taken out” in a “detailed and thoughtful act 
of extremely sinister censorship” by someone who “understood The Key 
deeply” and who edited it in a way that he was “unlikely to pick up on 
it”. Strieber said that the alteration of his book was an effort at “dis- 
empowerment, that’s what this damn thing was about” and “making it 
ugly”, and was: 

one of the best, clearest windows into what these controllers 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


are concerned about that has ever come into existence, and it’s 
extraordinary in that respect. 

Discussing one difference in particular, Strieber said: “But you see 
how this made it ugly and stupid? And made him seem like an idiot? 
And made me seem like an idiot?” 

Strieber took the present author to task over his Minority Report 
essay, saying: 

He takes a completely different viewpoint about all this. He 
does not think that the two editions are necessarily, that the new 
edition, that the old edition was necessarily censored so much as 
improved and changed. Now I disagree with him completely for 
the reasons — he kind of glosses over these particular changes in 
order to make sure that he can make his case. 

Strieber then went on to say that the present author: 

does make a good point [...] and that is that the old edition still 
has great value even though some of the changes that are present 
in it seem to be diminishing it. 

Nowhere in the Minority Report, of course, did its author suggest 
that any of the differences unique to the Walker & Collier diminished 
it. Indeed, the Minority Report article maintained that the Tarcher was 
inferior as a text because of problems like discontinuity and language 
that sounded like paraphrase of the 2001 Walker & Collier. The essay 
stated clearly that: 

whatever the ultimate reasons for the differences between the 
two texts, it’s possible to take the view that the 2001 edition 
admits a positive and meaningful interpretation, and that the 
Tarcher is a step backwards. 

Strieber tried to address the major discontinuity problem with the 
“monsters in the world of the dead” brought up in the Minority Report 
essay, saying in the interview: 

He also points out something I missed on the first go-round 
of this. On page 23 of the old edition, I asked him, “What do the 


348 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


dead look like?” That wasn’t actually what I asked him. What I 
asked him was, “You mentioned monsters in the world of the 
dead”. Now here’s the thing. I remember asking him that ques- 
tion very clearly. But what I don’t remember — and it’s possible 
that this was a last-minute change by me. It could have been 
done. It could have been done before I sent it off after proofing 
it. Very easily. Because I wracked my brain for a long time trying 
to remember what he said about monsters in the world of the 
dead. I know he said something. But I just can’t capture it. I 
can capture it in images, but not in words. There were a lot of 
things that happened that night, sounds he made that I couldn’t 
interpret that seemed to be connected somehow to words — it 
was a real hyperdimensional experience in many ways, let me 
put it that way. But anyway, he mentions this. And he’s right. 

There is something... There are things from The Key, from that 
conversation that I don’t remember. I know there are. And that 
was one of them. 

The problems with Strieber’s defense are evident. The statement 
“you mentioned monsters in the world of the dead” is a statement, not 
a question. But even regarding it broadly as a question and leaving this 
aside: as a defense the simple insistence that he remembered asking 
the non-question “very clearly” was weak. Strieber failed to mention in 
the interview that just prior in the dialogue the Master of the Key was 
telling Strieber to ask the “question lingering in [his] eyes” and that 
while the question in the Walker & Collier works perfectly the Tarcher 
does not. 

Second, Strieber failed to realize during the interview that despite 
his assertion of remembering “very clearly” asking the question about 
“monsters in the world of the dead” and that this was one of the things 
Strieber had either forgotten or could not convey in words — an answer 
is given in the Tarcher. In other words, evidently he had not forgotten 
and an answer was intelligible. The Tarcher gives a response to the 
out-of-place “[y]ou mentioned monsters in the world in the dead”, and 
it happens to be the same response given in the Walker & Collier to a 
properly formed question — one that introduces no discontinuity and 
comes in response to the Master of the Key’s clear prompting to ask a 
question. 

Without giving any of the points in favor of the Walker & Collier, 
Strieber seemed to sense that in this instance the Tarcher suffered 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


by comparison. So he went so far as to say that it was possible that 
the difference was a “last-minute change” by him. But the admission 
was quite incredible. How could it not raise the question of how many 
last-minute changes there might have been, while at the same time 
flatly contradicting the statement made at the start of the interview and 
elsewhere that he “did no changes whatsoever of any of the content”? 
All things considered when Strieber said he “wracked [his] brain for 
a long time trying to remember what he said about monsters in the 
world of the dead”, it could well be taken now to mean that he made 
the change in 2010/11 to conform to what he remembered of the event at 
that later date. The door was now wide open to wondering how much, if 
not all of the text unique to the Tarcher was done by Strieber in prepa- 
ration for the new edition’s release. 

Yet Strieber did not abandon the censorship scenario. He doubled 
down, proposing an e-mail hijack: 

Someone after I read the original proof pages of The Key 
changed these pages between the time they were proofed and 
signed off on and they were printed. 

It was a remarkable claim. Strieber’s earnestness and total convic- 
tion certainly made it sound to some of his listeners as if something was 
going on, though by the end of the interview Strieber was ruminating 
on parallel universes and ‘timeslips’ as if he himself were not so sure of 
what he was passionately trying to convince his audience. The positions 
he was taking were problematic in other ways. The Minority Report essay 
had mentioned that Strieber had read aloud some of the disputed pas- 
sages when he did his audio commentaries on the 2001 book. Without 
referring to the essay, Strieber claimed the opposite during his Dream- 
land interview, saying he had been “unlucky” and “didn’t happen to hit 
on anything that was different” in the ten years the Walker & Collier 
version was available. But then later he added: 

I didn’t see that in all those years. Or I may have seen it and I 
just — I may have even commented on it. 


I 


350 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


CHANGES 

THE PRESENT AUTHOR'S second involvement in the controversy 
came in reaction to Strieber’s appearance as guest on his Dreamland 
show. As noted Strieber misrepresented my views to his listeners, and 
also claimed that I had “[glossed] over” differences in A Minority Report 
to make the case that he misrepresented, namely that the differences 
taken as a whole did not look like censorship and that the Tarcher Con- 
versation might have come from an earlier stage of the manuscript. Of 
course, to me it was exactly the other way round: Strieber had omitted 
a key difference in making his case to the public and was making a lot 
of heated and overwrought claims without any apparent basis. Strieber 
was also making statements that were simply untrue: for example, that 
in his audio commentaries on The Key, he had been “unlucky” and 
had never happened across any of the passages that were “censored”. 
Strieber even contradicted himself, maintaining from the start of the 
controversy until the Dreamland program that there had been “no 
changes whatsoever of any of the content ”, 141 but during the interview 
reversing himself, saying of one difference that “it’s possible this was a 
last-minute change by me ”. 151 

To test Strieber’s censorship claim, a complete list of the differences 
between the two versions of The Conversation was needed. I compiled 
the list by doing a side-by-side comparison, and posted the list online 
attached to an essay called Changes in The Key: A Short Essay on the Ques- 
tion of Censorship in the Texts. (Hereafter Changes .) The essay identified 
eighteen clusters of differences between the Walker & Collier and the 
Tarcher versions, not counting punctuation differences or changes in 
spelling. The Changes essay concluded that: 

Of the eighteen sets of changes described above, twelve fall into 
a category of ‘undecidable/editorial’. Two represent instances of 
language similar or different to the 1st edition, but more confus- 
ing or less concise — these could be reshuffled into the editorial 
category, raising that number to fourteen. One is a clear mistake 
in the 2nd edition. One is an exchange inserted into the 2nd edi- 
tion with no surrounding supporting context. One involves a clear 
removal of a concept. One is a concept (three-part) introduced in 
the 2011 edition. 

At least two-thirds of the differences did not alter the meaning of 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


the text in a way that in even the most sympathetic reading suggested 
‘censorship’, and the majority of the remaining differences seemed to 
favor the Walker & Collier. Thus in the essay's view a charge of censor- 
ship was impossible to sustain — at least in the way Strieber was making 
it; namely, by having insisted he had never made any changes to the 
dialogue. 

The Changes essay also gave the details about Strieber reading aloud 
from Walker & Collier AK in his audio commentaries. It named three 
specific instances where Strieber had read disputed words aloud and 
given them full exegesis. There was never any sign of unease on Strie- 
ber's part as he commented on these passages, nor any hesitation or 
uncertainty as one might expect confronted with words that were not 
his own. 

To show just how comfortable Strieber was with text he would allege 
in 2011 was inserted by “sinister forces”, here is Strieber giving his 
interpretation of one such passage in 2004: !6] 

A lot of time has passed since we last talked about The Key. [...] 

[2:25] Now, I look down at the text and where do I find myself? I 
find myself when I asked the question, “There are aliens here?” 

And the Master of the Key answered: “Some using you, some 
guiding you.” 

What a perfect place to start again. Because I have literally in 
the past few weeks just had experience of suffering with some- 
body who is being used, and myself experiencing guidance of the 
most profound and important kind. [...] 

In 2011, Strieber would say that the Walker & Collier’s “some using 
you, some guiding you” was a product of censorship, that it was pro- 
foundly misleading because it painted a “lurid” picture of good aliens 
and evil aliens, while the 2011 Tarcher’s “using you and guiding you” 
for being more nuanced and ambiguous was what the Master of the Key 
actually said. But in 2004 Strieber was able to read the Walker & Collier 
out loud without noticing any lurid alteration, and was able to discuss it 
in a way to suggest the text was valid and meaningful. 

The same was true when a few minutes later Strieber happened upon 
another bit of disputed text. In the original Walker & Collier, the Master 
of the Key expands upon his statement about “some [aliens] using you, 
some guiding you”: 


352 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


We’re being exploited? 

You are, and in some respects horribly, by the creatures of the 
dark. But you are also being helped. You are being guided to your 
place as guides of another world. (35) 

In the Tarcher, the phrase “creatures of the dark” is absent: 

We’re being exploited? 

You are, but also helped. You are being guided to your place as 
guides of another world. 

In the 2004 audio commentary, Strieber read the Walker & Collier 
version above and had this to say of his experience hearing it: 

[4:45] [T]his is really a big surprise. What, I thought, do you 
mean? I was fascinated by these statements. I know a lot about 
what the darkness is doing. The people in British Columbia re- 
cently, a lot of them had genetic material harvested from their 
bodies. Not just Cynthia and her friend. Other people reported 
to doctors with strange wounds that look like tissue sampling. 

Cattle are being mutilated and material is being taken from them. 

And probably some kind of horrific, vile genetic experimenta- 
tion is going on. We’re genetically very similar to cattle. Maybe 
they’re trying to make a species that’s an amalgam of us that 
would be as compliant as cattle and as smart as we are. In other 
words, somebody’s out there trying to make slaves — who knows? 

Do I care? Sure, I care. I’d like to see that not happen. Anybody 
would. But at the same time, I’m interested in concentrating on 
my relationship with what is out there that cares about us, that 
wants us to go on, and that has a plan for us that is of value to 
us. And there is that. That is definitely out there. I have no doubt 
about it at all. 

He said “you are being guided to your place as guides to another 
world”. And this dovetails with a lot of material that has come to 
me in my experience. [...] 

Thus Strieber is quite comfortable in 2004 with the idea that there 
are some aliens “using” or exploiting mankind and other aliens “guid- 
ing” mankind. According to Strieber these latter have a “plan for us 
that is of value to us”, and Strieber says he wants to focus on building 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


his relationship with them. As the Changes essay pointed out, Strieber 
not only failed to notice any problems with the Walker & Collier in this 
instance, he was able to deliver with conviction an interpretation of what 
the text meant. 171 Yet in his 2011 Journal he was saying this: 

The original transcript and current edition imply a consistency 
of policy among all aliens who are here, who are both using us 
and guiding us. The first edition suggests that different groups 
may have different motives — a skillful lie, I believe, intended 
to convert an empowering statement into one that will lead only 
to confusion. It strikes me as a small but extremely sinister edit. 

The Changes essay noted that Strieber’s erratic public presentation 
was now having the unintended effect of calling attention to other 
issues with The Key. For one, the physical description of the Master of 
the Key had not always been the same. In an early account, Strieber 
wrote of the Master of the Key that “he was short — maybe four and a 
half feet tall”. 

Finally, the Changes essay noted that in at least three cases, motifs 
in The Conversation already had a separate life in Strieber’s body of ma- 
terial: 

1. DEAD FOREVER. Between 2001 and 2011, Strieber told a story 
a number of times about a letter sent to him, one of thousands from 
people who had had strange experiences. 181 The letter told of two people 
walking in the woods when they encountered a strange small man, who 
proceeded to tell them that he was a “rebel”; that there had been a 
great war in the distant past, apparently between earth and Mars, and 
that while Mars had lost, mankind (the aggressor) had been put to sleep 
and forced to reincarnate (i.e. the wheel of life). The assertions and the 
phrase “dead forever” appear in The Key (53-54), presented as fact. 

2. MARS WAS MURDERED. This distinctive declaration is made 
by the Master of the Key (55-56). But elsewhere according the Strieber, 
it was the name of a thread on an internet discussion group he partic- 
ipated in back in the 1980s. The thread was devoted to the idea of the 
destruction of a past Martian civilization. 191 

3 . FALLEN WORLD. The Master of the Key declares that ours 
is a “fallen world” (14). Significantly, Strieber in other places tells an 
anecdote of an old priest who when Strieber was a child who used to say 
to him that ours is a “fallen world”. 1101 


354 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


SINISTER FORCES 

I have never been much of a conspiracy theorist, but I do think 
that there is a long-standing conspiracy against me, and I am 
worried about it. Just for the record, I am going to list some of 
the things that have happened that seem to me to be the result 
of attempts by sinister forces to sabotage my life. M 

STRIEBER addressed none of the points made in the Changes essay in 
his next Journal dated May 26. Instead, he wrote of a long series of in- 
stances where he felt he had been the victim of an ongoing persecution, 
ranging from the failure of the film version of his book Communion to a 
variety of government- sponsored attacks. The occasion for all this was 
the problems surrounding The Key: 

And now comes the censorship of the original edition of the 
Key. Incredible, and equally incredible that I didn’t notice it at 
the time. What happened was that somebody very deftly edited 
the book after I had already signed off on it. Not only that, the 
edits, I have subsequently discovered, were actually in the proof 
pages I sent to the printer. So they happened when those pages 
were in my possession, but were not done by me. (I did a lot of 
editing to the proofs, but most of it was correcting typos and 
obscure phrases, etc.) For a more detailed discussion of what 
happened, read this journal entry. The 20iiTarcher/Penguin 
edition currently available contains the original manuscript, as 
it was intended to be published. After I made this all public, I was 
dogged by people claiming that I had faked it all in order to sell 
books. How dare they. Insensitive, stupid swine — or people with 
a hidden agenda. There is even one person out there claiming that 
the “edits” make the book better. Sure, get rid of anything about 
mind control. Stick in things about evil aliens that don’t exist to 
confuse people about who the sinister forces around here really 
are. That’s great editing! The book was CENSORED. 

The present author was now being lumped in with “sinister forces” 
out to “sabotage” Strieber’s life. But two points of interest appear in 
the above on the matter of the differences. Strieber in this Journal was 
now claiming that: a) he made a number of edits to the “proofs”; and 
that b) the Walker & Collier AK showed up in those “proof pages”. This 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


plainly contradicted what he said on Dreamland a few days before: that 
the proof sheets were “fine” and “correct ”. 1121 So the point of failure in 
the process was becoming even less clear. In the Dreamland interview, 
Strieber speculated that the changes were made to the PageMaker file 
before it was opened by the printer thanks to an “e-mail hijack”. But 
now, the changes had been made after Strieber “had already signed off 
on it” but also in the proof pages (raising the obvious question of just 
what Strieber signed off on if not the content of the proof pages). 

Strieber’s description here is deeply confused, and his level of con- 
fusion will be demonstrated further. But what was clear was that Strie- 
ber saw the differences between the two versions of The Conversation as 
another case of ongoing personal persecution: 

I am sick and tired of all this. I don’t know what to do about it 
except make it public. There’s nothing I can do to stop it, but it 
has gone a long way toward ruining my life, and I think that it is 
just plain shameful. I have achieved something truly magnificent, 
which is coherent, focused contact with another level of reality. 

Instead of being honored for this, as I certainly deserve, I have 
been ostracized, demonized and hammered almost to a pulp. My 
books go completely unreviewed. It’s as if I’m dead, as far as 
the community of my literary peers is concerned. When I go to 
conventions, people I have known for years simply stare at me 
from a distance, afraid to show the slightest sign of recognition. 

Honest reviewers cannot in conscience trash my books, so they, 
also, remain silent. If I should ever write anything that they feel 
they can trash, God help me, I’ll be reviewed everywhere. 

I’m tired of it and I want what I deserve from this society, 
recognition of the value of what I have done, not this continual 
sinister response. It is a dreadful way to treat anybody, let alone 
somebody who has worked as hard and as honestly as I have and 
has, in fact, created something that could be the basis for a new 
flowering of humanity, at a time when the powers that be have 
entirely failed and have betrayed the human race, and have no 
further reason to be respected in any way whatsoever. 


I 


356 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


COAST TO COAST AM 

COAST TO COAST AM is a nationally syndicated late-night radio 
talk show that rose to prominence in the 1990s under broadcaster Art 
Bell. The show features guests who talk about the paranormal, extrater- 
restrials, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, and more. Strieber 
was a frequent guest on the show in the 1990s, and even took over Art 
Bell’s weekend radio show Dreamland, which Strieber continues to this 
day as an online podcast. 

On June 19, 2011, Strieber appeared on Coast to Coast AM to promote 
his new book, The Key, with television reporter George Knapp as the 
program host. The three-hour appearance started in the show’s second 
hour. 

Strieber began the interview describing the basic scenario of his 
meeting with the Master of the Key. The host, George Knapp, was hardly 
adversarial. Yet Strieber’s statements were those of a man subtly on the 
defensive, forestalling criticisms and preempting possible objections as 
best he could. 

On the Master of the Key’s appearance, Strieber said: 

The man I met seemed pretty normal. He was there. He knocked 
on the door of a hotel room. 

He was not unusual looking. I’ve described him in different 
ways, but he was short. 

Strieber had, in fact, in the past described him many different 
ways as touched on in the Changes essay and as we shall see further. 
Anticipating the question of how he could reconstruct such a detailed 
conversation from a brief set of notes, Strieber said: 

I can always pretty well put together, I’ve always been able to 
do this since I was in school. [...] I’m comfortable with that, and 
that’s how I did it. 

Over the years, Strieber’s explanation as to how he could reconstruct 
a conversation from a brief set of notes had evolved. In the beginning, 
it was due to something intrinsic about the notes themselves. But by 
2011, it was because the notes were in a kind of personal shorthand he 
had always been able to do. As if to support the possibility, in a different 
context Strieber said of the duration of the encounter: 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


I don’t think he was there for more than forty-five minutes. 

Maybe an hour. That’s not that long a conversation. [...] I didn’t 
get the impression he was there for hours. I don’t think I’ve ever 
said that either. I may have. If you read it out, the reading of it 
takes about forty-five minutes. 

This is untrue. The 2011 audiobook version of The Conversation alone 
is three hours long, and reading The Conversation aloud at the breakneck 
rapid pace that Strieber elsewhere described takes at least two hours. 1131 

Asked why it was the Master of the Key appeared to Strieber and not 
to someone else, Strieber maintained: “I could remember what he said”. 
Strieber also speculated that he was chosen because he was a “sidelined 
individual whose credibility could be questioned”. And he lamented: 

In general I’m tuned out. I don’t exist. [...] You’re not going to 
hear about Whitley Strieber in the New York Times or anywhere 
like that. [...] The average person no longer knows I exist. 

The interviewer brought up a motif in The Key, the harvesting of 
souls, which Knapp claimed to have heard from Area 51 “whistleblower” 
Bob Lazar who gained notoriety in the 1990s. In fact, the motif appears 
in at least two places in The Key (59, 66). Strieber did not give a firm 
reply, but elsewhere in the interview gave a potential answer. Speaking 
of his lifetime of experiences, he said: 

It was an incredible education I received. It culminated in 
The Key. It was as if everything that happened to me from 1986 
through 1995 or 1996 when it pulled back was preparation for that 
night in 1998. So that I would be able to understand this man well 
enough to put down in writing what he said. I think that’s what 
my whole life has been about, frankly. This book: The Key. 

In the last hour of the interview, Strieber was asked about the cen- 
sorship of his 2001 book and now had this to say about how it was done. 

I do know that it happened in the bluesheets sent to the printer 
because I’ve gotten copies of them and the changes are in those 
sheets. Emendations and crossings out. So it was probably done 
at my house. But not by me. And certainly not by my wife. 


358 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


In this fourth description of how and where the censorship was 
done, Strieber points to the ‘bluesheets’. But it raises enormous ques- 
tions. 

In traditional publishing, bluesheets or ‘blueline proofs’ are proofs 
that function as photographic negatives of a book’s pages in a book’s 
final pre-production stage. Bluesheets are different from galleys in 
that bluesheets are only created after all changes and corrections are 
presumed made. 

Strieber was not using a traditional publishing process since he was 
self-publishing. But the printing company that seems to have produced 
The Key did use them in certain situations . 1141 Supposing then that Strie- 
ber is not simply misspeaking here when he refers to “bluesheets” in 
a way similar to when he says he “set the type” himself talking about 
PageMaker : 1151 even if Strieber saw corrections he wanted to make in the 
bluesheets, and wrote them into the bluesheets, it would make little 
sense to send these bluesheets to the printer. No commercial printer 
would agree to implement handwritten changes to a galley or bluesheet, 
nor would any author or publisher ask since a printer could not be relied 
upon to do it correctly. Publishing companies have editors for this 
purpose whereas a commercial printer simply takes a digital file and 
walks it through physical production. Thus the client of a commercial 
printer wanting to make changes would have to alter the PageMaker 
file, send the corrected file to the printer, and get new bluesheets from 
the printer to inspect. 

But all this aside — whether there were actual bluesheets with cor- 
rections written into them or regular proof pages — an even more basic 
and obvious question arises for Strieber’s fourth censorship scenario: if 
things were crossed out and “emendations” made, whose handwriting 
were these emendations in? The most natural thing in the world would 
have been for Strieber to say ‘I found emendations and they were in 
somebody else’s handwriting’. Such an observation would have relied 
on direct physical proof. Instead Strieber stops short, and so his state- 
ment sounds like mere conviction. When Strieber leaves open the ob- 
vious matter of the handwriting, one is left to suspect that it is because 
for some reason he prefers to do so. 

In a rather pathetic exchange that took place between Knapp and 
Strieber while Strieber evidently thought he was off-air, Strieber gave 
some more insight as to why he thought censorship had been done to 
The Key : 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


There’s people all over me. There have been for a long time. 
It makes me sick.. .sick of it. ..of these stupid people. I’m sick of 
retired intelligence people who make a habit of jacking people 
like me around. And who pretend to have some kind of official 
locomotion when all they have is — they’re bored. 


CENSORING STRIEBER 

WHATEVER Strieber’s fears and past persecutions, the fact remained 
that the censorship scenario did not hold together. Starting with the 
e-mail exchange in which the differences were brought to Strieber’s 
attention, the censorship claim went through at least four versions: 

1. The Microsoft Word file matched the Tarcher, whereas the 
PageMaker file matched the Walker & Collier. 

2. The Microsoft Word file matched the Tarcher, and the orig- 
inal proofs were correct, therefore the PageMaker was ‘correct’ (and 
matched the Tarcher); the changes were made after the proof stage, 
maybe by an e-mail hijack. 

3 . The changes were visible in the proofs, and while Strieber “did a 
lot of editing to the proofs”, evidently no W&C AK were done by him. 

4. At least some of the changes were done to the bluesheets, which 
Strieber says involved “emendations and crossings out” without any 
mention of whether the handwriting was his or someone else’s. Instead 
of an e-mail hijack, it was done at his house by an unknown party. 

Even allowing for changes in Strieber’s understanding as to how the 
censorship might have been done as he was able to examine his digital 
files, dig out old galleys of the Walker & Collier, et cetera, the whole 
changing edifice of the censorship scenario meant in the end none of 
Strieber’s presentation was convincing except his level of conviction 
alone. But while he sounded very much in earnest, along with stricken, 
panicked, confused, and so on, Strieber cannot be said to have been 
honest. Too many obvious questions were left ignored. For example: 
given that the Walker & Collier AK were now said to be in the galley 
proofs and/or blueline proofs, were they not also in the PageMaker 
file? They would have to be unless against all normal practice the 
commercial printer was the one implementing Strieber’s “emendations 
and crossings-out”. What was the last modified date on the PageMak- 
er file? And what about the handwriting of those “emendations and 
crossings-out”? Why fail to make the obvious clinching point that the 


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handwriting was not his? 

Even more important: given that the Walker & Collier went through 
galley proofs and/or blueline proofs, why would anyone expect the 
Microsoft Word file to match the Walker & Collier at all? The text was 
not only transplanted into PageMaker where Strieber could easily have 
tinkered with it as it was formatted, but it went through subsequent 
proof stages in which Strieber made changes. 

And what about the proofing process for the Tarcher? Unable to 
account for the major discontinuity problem with the “monsters in 
the world of the dead”, Strieber finally conceded it might have been a 
change he made. Was it not likely that there were other changes made 
during the Tarcher proofing process that would account for some, if not 
all of Tarcher AK? 

Finally there were the tiny infelicities in Strieber’s presentation. 
Writing in his first Journal, for example, that the Word file had been 
“converted” to PageMaker when, in fact, using PageMaker involves a 
complete transformation of content. Saying on Dreamland that he had 
“missed on the first go-round” the “monsters in the world of the dead” 
problem when it was at the top of the list he had been sent. Then, of 
course, there was the misrepresentation of the present author’s views, 
telling his audience I thought there were changes that “weakened” the 
Walker & Collier and that I had “glossed over” some of the differences. 

Why go so far out of his way to emphasize the November 16, 2000, 
date for his Microsoft Word file when he knew there was obviously a 
later PageMaker file and a proofing process? Why be so insistent that 
he had made no “changes whatsoever of any of the content” only to 
have to backtrack later? It is possible to see behind the panicked quality 
of Strieber’s response not simply concern at being harassed by intelli- 
gence agencies, but a desire to evade some other truth. 

Simple hoaxing does not account for the full picture. Strieber might 
easily have announced in the lead-up for the Tarcher’s release that the 
changes came from ten years of thinking long and hard on what the 
man said, and that the Tarcher was a new and improved, even correct- 
ed version of The Key. Obedient fans would have happily accepted. For 
Strieber it seems there were very personal stakes involved, to which the 
feelings of persecution, standing as proxy, could attest. Perhaps at issue 
was as much deceiving himself as deceiving the public. 

After all, could any of the differences honestly be called censorship? 
A complete review of the differences is outside of the scope of this paper. 
But it is useful here to mention some of the more notable differences: 


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1 . Electrical enhancement. In the Tarcher, mind control is said to be 
used on those in power via ‘electrical enhancement’ in order to control 
human society, whereas in the Walker & Collier mind control is said to 
be used very broadly on the entire population by unclear means. The 
language in the Tarcher has resonances with the Fragmentary Inclusions 
which appeared for the first time in the 2011 Tarcher. 

3 . A statement to the effect that Strieber’s purported implant makes 
him free from mind control. This statement is something of a howler 
and may be unprecedented in the UFO world, i.e. the idea that one’s 
alien implant could protect one from mind control rather than subject 
one to it. The claim is even more suspect when viewed alongside other 
self-oriented elements of Strieber’s narrative. 

4 . An odd non-sequitur exchange about Osiris and Jesus, mentioned 
previously. The idea that there was a science of the soul which the 
appearance of Jesus was intended world-historically to preserve is es- 
tablished in The Conversation (25). The exchange about Osiris and Jesus 
comes off as a repetition of ideas already expressed elsewhere. 

Sinister alteration? Or competing versions of Whitley Strieber? Some 
of the differences will be discussed later in dating the Tarcher. 


QUESTIONING THE KEY 

THE PROBLEM of the two texts of The Conversation and Strieber’s 
incoherent claims of censorship created a debacle for The Key. Even for 
those willing to believe some sort of ‘true encounter’ had taken place, 
the fact that no single version of The Conversation now existed combined 
with the fact that the book’s panicked and confused author was making 
doubtful charges of censorship against his own self-published book 
meant that it was now possible to view the book in a new way. Greater 
attention was getting paid to the words of The Conversation itself. In the 
course of this bizarre debacle, I had pointed out instances where state- 
ments made by the Master of the Key matched things said by Strieber 
in very different contexts. Were these isolated instances? Or was there 
more to be discovered by questioning The Key? 

With such questions left open, the controversy faded, and mention 
of “sinister forces” tampering with Strieber’s book stopped as Strieber’s 
promotional tour on the podcast circuit came to a close. 

Less than a year later, the Walker & Collier edition of The Key was 
quietly being offered again at the unknowncountry.com website . ll6] 


362 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


PART THREE 


PROBLEMS WITH THE SCENARIO 

IT IS GENERALLY accepted that memories immediately following an 
event are more accurate than later ones.™ As result, one would expect 
Strieber’s earliest descriptions of what happened June 6, 1998, to be 
more accurate than later ones. According to Strieber, he waited two 
years to begin transcribing the conversation in earnest, writing The Key 
in late 2000. [21 As two years is a relatively short interval, one could also 
expect The Key to substantially match any accounts from around the 
time of the 1998 ‘true encounter’. 

Are there such early descriptions? What light do they shed on the 
‘true encounter’? And how well do they correspond to The Key? 

In fact, five descriptions of the ‘true encounter’ can be found in 
interviews and in Strieber’s Journal following the June 6, 1998 event: 

1 Journal - July 19, 1998, Encounter of June 6 , 1998 
J Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell interview, July 27, 1998 
t Interview with Michael Lindemann, August 5, 1998, Whitley 
Strieber: Toronto Encounter Alters His Perspective On 'Visitors’ and 
Coming Catastrophe 

l Journal - November 1, 1998, The June 6, 199 8 Experience: Update 
t Interview with Sean Casteel, November 1998, Whitley Strieber 
And The Toronto Experience 

t WHITLEY'S JOURNAL 

ENCOUNTER OF JUNE 6, 1998 - JULY 19 , 1998 

Strieber’s Journal with its July 19, 1998, date is the first account 
of his experience in the hotel room in Toronto? 31 In this Journal entry, 
Strieber begins his description of the scenario more or less as he would 
in The Key two years later: 

When I threw the door open, a man in a dark colored suit came 
hurrying in. He was short — maybe four and a half feet tall — and 
had a rather pointed face. But he was a man, a human being, by 
anything that I could see. I rushed along behind him, totally 
astonished. I was completely normal. No altered state. 


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We talked for about half an hour. When I asked him where he 
was from, he said, “Toronto.” I asked him if he was a human 
being. He said that he was, but that he did not pay taxes. I asked 
him if he had ever lived off planet. He said that there is a higher 
world, and we can sometimes gain the right to enter it in life. [...] 

The above is substantially the same as the scenario presented in 
The Key. But there is one important difference: the appearance of the 
visitor. In the above account, he is only four and a half feet tall and 
with a “rather pointed face”. He is described as wearing a “dark colored 
suit”, a far less refined description than the charcoal turtleneck sweater 
and jacket given later (4). Strieber’s description here is evocative of his 
visitor accounts with the “pointed” face and the one-piece jumpsuits, 
and leads to the obvious question how under normal circumstances “a 
man, a human being” could be four and a half feet tall. 

The Journal then begins to differ more and more from his later ac- 
count: 


Gently, he told me that our world is “irretrievably lost.” He 
said, “the ones to whom you pay your taxes will be dragged in 
the streets before this suffering is ended.” What suffering? “You 
will see the signs in fire. Your planet’s life has turned a turning 
in its path. There will be a great extinction here.” 

Every word he uttered contained whole vast oceans of other 
words and meanings that came flying into my mind as he spoke. 

I grabbed a yellow pad and took notes. 

I asked if the visitors would intervene. No. If they would take 
anybody off the planet. He only stared silently at me. His face 
seemed — hungry? Sad? I really do not know how to interpret it. 

One detail here tallies with Strieber’s later description: the issue of 
how the visitor’s words affected him. The “vast oceans of other words 
and meanings” opened up is a detail to which Strieber would refer as 
late as 2011 141 though one might easily ask: how well can a later book 
claim to be a transcription if so much of what is being communicated is 
not ‘said’ exactly? 

But most of the material quoted in this excerpt does not appear in 
The Conversation. The phrase “irretrievably lost” (13) appears at the start 
of the conversation but as “You may be irretrievably lost”. In the Journal 
entry, it is more final. None of the rest — “those to whom you pay your 


364 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


taxes”, “dragged in the streets”, the world’s “turning”, asking if the 
visitors would “take anybody off the planet” — appears in The Conversa- 
tion, even as paraphrase. 

It is worth noting, however, that again there is a descriptor evoca- 
tive of Strieber’s visitors: the “hungry” look, hard to reconcile with the 
picture of an ordinary person under normal circumstances. By contrast 
it matches Strieber’s feral ‘visitors’ quite well. 

Strieber’s description of the encounter continues and suggests that 
the main purpose of the visit was a new “path” Strieber would teach: 

There emerged an incredible promise: that an ancient path 
would again emerge. And suddenly I knew who this man was. 

Since I met one of them in 1971 , 1 have known that there was an 
incredible secret group in this world, who knew the true path of 
the human soul. He told me then I would one day play a part in 
inducing this hidden path to resurface. He taught it to me, and 
I committed it to memory. I asked what I should do with it? He 
only shook his head. 

In fact, the “path” here almost certainly refers to a certain way 
of working with Tarot cards that Strieber would present in a 2002 
self-published book called The Path. 

Strieber continues: 

Just before he left, the man in Toronto had me drink a fluid. He 
reminded me that I had taken this same drink as a child. He said 
that it contained the structures of my life, up until that night. He 
was here to give me the second cup, which would contain every- 
thing from June 6 until my death. He told me when and how I am 
to die, but he also said, “if you value your sanity, you will never 
utter this.” I can certainly see that. But I sense the truth of what 
he said, and I think that I have gained the peace of a dying man. 

I have also gained a mission: our world is going to go through 
a time of great agony. I can tell you this: many of the people 
who now hold sway over us are going to end up despised by a 
thousand future generations. Their names will echo in the ages 
as the names of the blackest demons of hell. 

No discussion surrounding the drinking of a white liquid appears 
in The Conversation, though the occurrence is mentioned in both The 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Master of the Key and Who Was He? sections from 2001 with no mention 
of “structures” of life being in the liquid or what it might have been. 
Likewise there is no mention of Strieber hearing the time and manner 
of his death nor the “if you value your sanity” line anywhere in The Key. 

He told me what would happen, and told me each sign to watch 
for. Horrifically and incredibly, two of the signs occurred within 
a month of the meeting: “great fires” and a “plague of cold water 
in the western sea.” 

I came home from my author tour to a city blanketed in smoke 
from the huge fires that swept southern Mexico and Central 
America. Then I discovered that the strongest La Nina on record 
was literally killing sea life in the Pacific with cold water. 

Neither of these two “signs” appear anywhere in The Key. By 
2000-2001, the environmental catastrophe that Strieber would say was 
discussed will have morphed into a superstorm starting in the Atlantic 
that ends in a new ice age. It is worth mentioning in passing that two 
of Strieber’s tendencies are visible here which will be important later in 
the current article: Strieber reading recent events backwards into past 
prophecies; and Strieber’s preoccupation with his own “mission” and 
the “part” he must play. 

The difference between this Journal entry and what is presented in 
The Key is quite remarkable. The Journal account contains vivid, even 
poignant details that if real, one would expect to appear in the 2001 
book. For example, “I asked what I should do with it? He only shook his 
head”. The question and its specific visual image are nowhere in The 
Key. 

While there is overlap between this early account and the 2001 book, 
one cannot help but get the sense that the Journal account contains the 
most important features of the encounter as Strieber saw them at the 
time. Strieber is giving a description in this Journal of an event that 
happened just two months earlier, and according to Strieber the main 
focus of the meeting was the “ancient path” and Strieber’s role “in 
inducing this hidden path to resurface”. But this is nowhere in the 2001 
The Conversation. Also specific signs of environmental collapse were 
given in this account and rather unmistakable statements made by the 
“man in Toronto” which Strieber presented as direct quotes. By the time 
of the publication of The Key, the signs and the quotes will have fallen 
away or morphed into something else. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


T COAST TO COAST AM WITH ART BELL 

INTERVIEW, JULY 27 , 1998 

Strieber’s next account of the Toronto encounter begins around 
forty minutes into his Coast to Coast AM interview. Strieber as he does 
elsewhere asserts the fact that he was “totally, completely conscious”, 
that the Master of the Key looked like an “ordinary person”, and that 
the true encounter was like a “straightforward meeting”. 

At the same time, even within the same breath, Strieber also asso- 
ciates the Master of the Key with an otherworldly being spotted in the 
woods near his cabin: 

The reason he looked familiar to me is because the children 
back in the days when we had our cabin in upstate New York used 
to see this man in the woods a lot, running through the woods. 

And so, the workmen who worked who worked in the [...] once I 
had some workmen take down some poison ivy. They’d gotten 
into some trees and they saw them. And they came up to the 
house and they said ‘We’re finished. We’re not going to work here 
anymore because of that man that’s running around out in the 
woods is weird and looks like someone out of one of your books.’ 

What is striking here is that the reason the man “looked familiar” 
according to Strieber was that some children and some workmen saw 
him. Not Strieber himself. Indeed, in the Walker & Collier this is made 
clear: 


His presence made me and my wife extremely nervous, and I 
used to try to see him myself, but I never did. [...] As I have never 
laid eyes on him at all, I cannot be certain that he was the same 
person whom I met in Toronto. 

It is certainly odd to say a man looks “familiar” when you have 
never seen him before. It is an instance of Strieber remember- 
ing-by-imagining to which we will return later. 

Telepathic? ... Not to my knowledge, but there was ... [41:50] 

There was something about the way it worked that... everything 
that was said, every word that was said had kind of freight with it. 

It had, it seems to me, almost an infinity of meaning. And there 


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were also some words used that I cannot remember. 

[42:20] They were sort of like hyperdimensional words. [...] 

What people used to call words of power. And they affected me 
when he uttered them. [...] [42:45] At the time I even noticed 
that some of them weren’t in English, at least not English as I 
understand it. But later I realized that there were some words 
that had contained whole vast complicated ideas. 

Thus while Strieber insists he had a straightforward encounter with 
an ordinary person, he simultaneously associates the Master of the Key 
with a short otherworldly being and says it spoke to him using words 
that were not in ordinary English. 

Strieber then goes on to discuss what the Master of the Key said: 

He said and it was so plain, he said: ‘Your world as you under- 
stand it is breaking up.’ [Bell: Breaking up?] ‘Breaking up’ was 
the phrase. ‘And this cannot continue as it is. The die has already 
been cast. This is finished.’ And when he said ‘this is finished’, it 
was one of the moments when it seemed to be so much connected 
with — it was as if the whole of history had flashed through my 
mind carried on the tone of voice that he used saying, uttering the 
words. And it was just amazing. I’ve never had an experience like 
that in my life, hearing somebody speak in such a way that their 
tone of voice carried a whole world with them. It was awesome. 

Note here Strieber underlines that “[b]reaking up was the phrase”. 
This phrase appears nowhere in The Conversation. Likewise, “the die has 
already been cast” is not in The Conversation, and the poignant moment 
Strieber describes in which the “whole of history” flashed through his 
mind — is nowhere in The Conversation. Strieber says above that he’d 
“never had an experience like that” in his life, referring to hearing the 
Master of the Key speak. But what was said will change greatly by 2001. 

Like his earlier Journal account, Strieber in this interview also is 
keyed into his role in the catastrophic changes to come: 

My whole experience was about the process of that transition 
[..] and the role I would play in it. 

This self-oriented dimension to Strieber’s accounts is further visi- 
ble in what he describes next: 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[57:40] Let me tell you the next thing the man said. [...] The next 
thing he said was that we are about to leave this consciousness. 

That we are about to extend human consciousness outside space 
and time altogether. And he said ‘you will leave the footprints 
you now see in the past’. That it would be not just a spiritual 
thing, but a physical thing. And I said ‘what footprints?’ And he 
referred me to a book called Forbidden Archaeology with which 
I am quite familiar. 

[Bell: Oh, my God. Do you swear to me on a stack of Commu- 
nion books that you didn’t hear Sunday’s show?] You know, I’m a 
very faithful person and I swear to you by the religion in which I 
believe that I did not. 

[59:40] On page 811 of Forbidden Archaeology, which by the 
way I have here, it is by Michael Cremo and Richard Thompson. 

As I say, I’m familiar with it. They wrote a shortened version of 
this book that I believe I may have written a foreword to. Oh, no, 
another book of theirs called Alien Agenda I wrote a foreword to. 

[[note: S is referring to Alien Identities by Richard L. Thompson 
alone]] In any case, there on this page is a story of a print of a 
shoe that was found in Cambrian shale. You know how old that 
is? That’s 500 million years old. There was even a hole in the 
shoe. The stitching around the edges of the shoe is visible in the 
fossil print. 

In what will become a clear pattern in Strieber’s accounts, the 
Master of the Key is very interested in what Strieber is reading at a 
given moment, often referencing it directly as above. But in The Conver- 
sation there is no mention at all of “footprints you now see in the past”, 
nor Strieber reading Forbidden Archaeology. 

Finishing the discussion of the Toronto encounter, Strieber said: 

[1:37:35] I talked to him — I think it was ... it may have been as 
much as a half an hour, but it was certainly no less than fifteen 
minutes. I wasn’t keeping track of time. [Bell: Could it have been 
a lot longer? Did you have any reference at all for time?] No, but I 
didn’t feel like there was a lot of missing time or anything. And 
when he left, it was so abrupt it was almost funny. [Bell: In what 
manner?] Well, he just stood up. He’d been sitting on the. ..sort 
of... I guess... I guess he was sitting on a chair.. .beside the bed. 

And right in what felt like the whole middle of the thing, he just 


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stood up and walked out. Closed the door behind him. Just like 
that. And was gone. [...] And I went to the door. And by the time 
I was standing at the door, I was so tired, I felt like I weighed 
five hundred pounds. I had no way to follow him. I could not do 
it. I went and I laid back down on the bed. When I woke up in the 
morning, my feet were still off the foot of the bed. I hadn’t even 
gotten all the way into the bed. But I felt very good. I felt — fine 
when I woke up. I didn’t feel exhausted as I sometimes used to 
after these things. 

In this account then the ‘true encounter’ lasted for as little as fif- 
teen minutes. What’s more, it ended by the Master of the Key abruptly 
standing up in the middle of the conversation and walking out. 

INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL LINDEMANN 

august 5, 1998 

He seemed short and slight to me. He was not a stocky man... 

He wore black clothing. I thought it was a military type outfit. It 
was unusual clothing, more like a leisure suit but not military 
enough to say this was a uniform. He had rather sparse gray hair 
and an elongated face, a sharp nose and chin. His eyelashes were 
very white. 151 

Strieber’s description of the Master of the Key’s clothing as a 
“military type outfit”, of course, differs somewhat from the more con- 
ventional description he would give later in The Key. But perhaps more 
significant is that in this interview, Strieber continues to associate the 
Master of the Key with a creature described as alien: 

The children used to see him around the cabin back in the old 
days. All the kids did. I think the same man. That was what next 
crossed my mind. As soon as he started talking, I thought, “Oh 
my god, it’s the little man who used to be at the cabin.” I never 
saw him, but some workmen who were there quit because he 
walked across the road in front of them, and they came up to the 
house and said, “There’s an alien out in the woods, and we’re not 
going to be pulling those vines down.” I was having them pull 
some poison ivy out of a tree. And they left. 


370 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


The problem here is two -fold: on the one hand, maintaining that 
the so-called Master of the Key is one and the same with a small crea- 
ture described as “alien” in appearance rather raises the question as to 
how Strieber can also maintain that the Master of the Key looked com- 
pletely human. On the other hand, the question therefore must arise as 
to whether it was the “straightforward meeting” Strieber said it was on 
Coast to Coast AM. 

ML: You mentioned that he communicated in a very strange 
and powerful way. Can you elaborate? Was it telepathic? 

WS: He had access to my mind in ways that were really un- 
usual. It wasn’t exactly like telepathy, but some of the words he 
said, I can’t repeat. I don’t know how. He would say a sentence 
like, “There is going to be a series of events that take place,” and 
then this other word would come out. And this word seemed to 
contain enormous amounts of information. It was not like an 
ordinary word. It had a rough kind of garbled sound to it, like 
he was choking. Fantastic words. They gave meaning, to me, to 
the phrase “words of power,” because I’m telling you, I’ve never 
heard the like, and I could never make sounds like that. If that 
involved telepathy, then he was telepathic as well. 

Garbled sounds and choking noises would certainly pose a problem 
for later transcription. But at no point in The Conversation does Strieber 
note the Master of the Key making garbled sounds or choking. More- 
over, the fact that Strieber twice within months of the Toronto event 
described telepathic or semi-telepathic communication involving 
“words of power” that were not normal English, and perhaps not even 
words, further suggests that it was not a “straightforward meeting”. 
Rather, as Strieber simultaneously suggests but also denies with a kind 
of eerie cognitive dissonance, it was a “hyperdimensional” encounter. 

As to how the encounter ended, Strieber told Lindemann this: 

ML: How did the meeting end? 

WS: There was something I had to drink. He had this drink. It 
was very, very unpleasant, not at all like something that anyone 
in their right mind would drink. I argued about it a lot. That’s 
when I suddenly became a nine-year-old again, having the same 
argument — although I must admit that, as an adult, I was rather 
interested at what might happen. The whole thing was fascinat- 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


ing. I was wide awake — there was no question in my mind. So I 
did drink it, and it tasted like citrate of magnesia. It was thick and 
pale — it really looked horrible. There was not much of it, just the 
bottom of the glass. It wasn’t liquid. It had a shape, like jello. It 
was so horrible it seemed utterly ridiculous. But I did eventually 
drink it, because he said if I did, a lot of memory would return. He 
tempted me with that, so I drank it. I have a feeling that I drank 
the book. That’s what it seems like, anyway. Strangely, the next 
morning, the glass was gone. I definitely would have taken it back 
to Texas for testing, but it was nowhere to be found. 

Of course, this differs from the description of the visitor’s abrupt 
departure given to Art Bell a week or so earlier. And while we might 
entertain the idea that an unknown substance is what allowed Strieber 
to transcribe a book with such clarity of recall two years later, it is 
worth pointing out that in 2001 he had this to say about the glass: 

After I drank this substance, I remember nothing until the next 
morning. When I woke up, I immediately did three things. First, 

I looked for my notes. They were there, lying on the table beside 
the bed where I had put them. Then I went into the bathroom, 
thinking that maybe some of the white liquid would be left in 
the bottom of one of the glasses. But they were clean. I then 
telephoned my wife. (6) 

In August 1998, “[sjtrangely, the next morning, the glass was gone”. 
In 2001, it was there and it was clean. So much for Strieber’s memory 
being enhanced. 

Also worth noting is the curious incident of the notes in the night- 
time. In the Walker & Collier version of The Key, Strieber says (above) 
the notes were “lying on the table beside the bed”. By 2011’s Tarcher, 
they were “lying on the floor”. [6] 

WHITLEY'S JOURNAL 

THE JUNE 6, 1998 EXPERIENCE: UPDATE - NOVEMBER 1 . 1998 

In his Journal dated November l, 1998, 171 Strieber wrote that the To- 
ronto encounter had moved to the “center of [his] inner life” and that 
the Master of the Key was for him now a sort of “male muse”. In a brief 
discussion of what was said, Strieber wrote: 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


I remember thinking, “is this really somebody from another 
world, somebody who has traveled through space?” But when I 
asked him, he said, “I’m your cousin.” Whoops, what did that 
mean. Also, when I asked if machines could have intelligence, 
he said, “we do.” But when I asked him if he was a machine, he 
replied, “If I was, I would deceive you.” Another question: do 
human beings have souls? Answer: “not all, but all may.” 

The line “I’m your cousin” appears nowhere in The Key. Machine 
intelligence is discussed in The Key and the statement “If I was, I would 
deceive you” appears as “If I were an intelligent machine, I would de- 
ceive you”. But the “we do” line which the Master of the Key uses to 
flatly declare himself an intelligent machine is nowhere in The Key. And 
the answer to the question whether human beings have souls, “not all, 
but all may”, appears in The Conversation as “Not all human beings are 
radiant bodies. But all may become such.” 

INTERVIEW WITH SEAN CASTEEL 

NOVEMBER 1998 

Strieber described the Master of the Key in an interview with Sean 
Casteel as follows: 

I threw the door open and this man walked into the room. He 
was smaller than I was by a significant amount, to where the first 
thought that might have even crossed my mind was that he was 
a child. He looked old. He was maybe four foot eight to five feet 
tall at most . 181 

In this account, the height of the Master of the Key is beginning 
to increase compared to the first Journal. And though still abnormally 
short at just under five feet tall, somehow Strieber is also able to say 
without feeling the need to clarify: “He certainly didn’t look like any- 
thing except a human being”. 

Regarding his manner of communication, Strieber told Casteel: 

There were also words that he would use that now, looking 
back, I don’t know those words. I just remember them as kind 
of gravely sounds. I don’t know what they were. But these words 
contained huge amounts of information. 


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Again, calling a dialogue a transcription when the communication 
consisted of “gravely” sounds and words that were not familiar English 
should be problematic — still less maintaining later that the transcrip- 
tion is “80% to 90% accurate”. According to Strieber, though, the com- 
munication involved an almost telepathic sharing of mental content: 

The thing is that every word he said seemed to have attached 
to it thousands of ideas. And I have in my head now the contents. 

I mean, it’s like having the contents of somebody else’s mind in 
your own mind. Or at least part of it. 

But the question as to just whose mind was being accessed is per- 
haps inadvertently answered in the interview shortly thereafter: 

S. In the end of this, the body of man is going to be transformed. 

Not just the mind of man or the spirit of man. It’s not a mind/ 
body or spirit/body-there’s no spirit/body bifurcation. This 
looks upon the body and mind and spirit as all one thing. So that 
instead of an out-of-body experience, you might be able to just 
plain fly, as far as I can tell. 

Q. Well, you also talk about that concept in “The Wolfen,” the 
idea that the mind changes the body. The force of the soul acting 
on the body allows you to- 

S. Yes, well it’s something similar to that. I didn’t realize that 
I’d talked about that in “The Wolfen,” but now that you mention 
it, I guess I must have. 

Finally, Strieber gives a description of the Master of the Key’s ap- 
pearance and something important Strieber was told: 

Yeah. It was black, dark clothing. A suit with a jacket that was 
buttoned up to the collar and a pair of dark pants. He was sort 
of normal. I can’t remember too much detail about the style of 
his clothing because I was really riveted to what he was saying 
and by interacting with him. And the fun of it. It was terribly 
fun. It wasn’t a pleasant conversation, but it was exhilarating to 
have this happening. I was very well aware at the time of how 
extremely unusual the whole experience was. And he kept sort of 
giggling almost because he was, too. He was almost laughing at 
the idea that I was obviously so excited. And yet at the same time, 


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the things he was talking about were really intense. 

There was one thing that was fairly extraordinary. He told me 
the date of my death. And he said, “But you must keep this a 
secret, because if you tell anyone, then it is possible that it will 
change.” And that is very true. Because if I told that and it became 
public knowledge, maybe someone would decide to change it just 
to prove me wrong. You know, and blow my brains out. So it was 
a very interesting thing. But I’ve had that happen before. I was 
told the day of my death by the Visitors sometime ago and the day 
came and passed and I didn’t die. So whether that is something 
to be believed or not, I don’t know. 

The description of the Master of the Key wearing a “suit” that was 
“buttoned up to the collar” doesn’t quite tally with the appearance given 
in the published version of The Key of a “charcoal turtleneck under a 
black jacket” (4). The “giggling” does not really come across in The 
Conversation, though Strieber does speak elsewhere of the Master of the 
Key’s joyousness. [9) And again, the disclosure of the date of Strieber’s 
death appears nowhere in The Conversation at all. Nor does this: 

Q. But it’s all coming out eventually in a new book? 

S. Yes. It was very specific. He even gave me the title. I can’t 
give it to you, but he gave me the title and he made me write it 
down. 

Thus it appears that the Master of the Key gave Strieber the ulti- 
mate title for his book. This appears nowhere in The Conversation or The 
Key, nor apparently anywhere else. 

At the end of the interview Strieber expresses some doubts: 

And there’s always, always, in the back of my mind, now that 
it’s a memory, and it’s not really happening at this moment, did 
it happen at all? That is something that never, ever leaves me. 

Because when you’re dealing with something this strange, and 
this intense, could it be that I had an extremely intense dream? 

But if I did, then the material imparted to me seems to have still 
come from a really sterling source. Because of its vitality and its 
excellence and its newness. 

So even if that’s the case, I think it’s still valid. That’s why I felt 
I would begin to talk about it. Because whether the guy was really 


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there or not - I mean, it’s a memory right now, just like my last 
memory of being in my apartment in Texas. It seems no more 
or less valid than any ordinary memory. But the strangeness of 
what happened makes me keep it in question anyway. Do you see 
what I mean? 

There is a frustrating double conceit here. For one, the basic “new- 
ness” of the ideas to which Strieber was exposed during his ‘true en- 
counter’ can be strongly doubted as later sections will show. But second, 
however much Strieber might keep his experience(s) “in question” in 
the privacy of his own thoughts, he would nonetheless spend years ad- 
vocating publicly for the basic reality of his ‘true encounter’ along with 
the importance of the messages he was given. Indeed, the response is 
an example of a recurring rhetorical strategy in Strieber: paint as vivid 
a picture as possible in order to convince as to the reality of this or that 
alleged experience; then hedge his bets by saying the experience should 
be kept “in question”. 

After all, given the number of wildly differing elements in the ac- 
counts presented here, one could ask whether for Strieber there was 
anything “in question” at all. Indeed, so little effort seems to have 
been taken to arrive at a single consistent description of events in the 
months after the ‘true encounter’, that it seems that its basic reality 
was radically closed to question with the details of the encounter un- 
usually open to constant reworkings and reimaginings. The physical 
appearance of the Master of the Key is one example. In the earliest 
description, he was four-and-a-half feet tall. His height then began to 
increase, and would not stop increasing. In a 2003 audio commentary, 
Strieber described the Master of the Key as “five -foot- six or five-foot- 
seven” and in another commentary “five-foot seven, five-foot-eight 
maybe”. 1101 By the 2011 Tarcher, he had grown still more: “He seemed 
rather slight to me, perhaps five-foot-eleven, weighing maybe a hun- 
dred and seventy to a hundred and eighty pounds”. 1111 Looking at the 
descriptions of the Master of the Key and of the ‘true encounter’ over 
time, it is difficult not to detect a tendency on Strieber’s part to make 
the Master of the Key more and more conventionally human and the 
‘true encounter’ into a more and more conventional conversation. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


CONCLUSION 

AS WE HAVE SEEN there are major problems with the basic sce- 
nario of the ‘true encounter’. While Strieber’s early descriptions of the 
encounter have points of overlap, they are also inconsistent enough 
that they can be seen as accounts of different events. Basic details like 
the Master of the Key’s manner of departure differ entirely from one 
account to the next. 

Comparing his early accounts of the scenario with that of the 2001 
book, it can be said that these differ so completely that in November 
1998 — just five months after the ‘true encounter’ — Strieber said of the 
Master of the Key’s physical appearance that he resembled a child. 

Worse, both specific statements made and vivid moments of rec- 
ollection seem to vary depending on the account. Strieber will draw 
special attention to a particular utterance in one account only for the 
utterance to go missing in other accounts and disappear from the 
conversation altogether by 2001. Strieber will talk of being profoundly 
moved at a particular moment and describe it visually (for example, 
saying of the Master of the Key: “He only shook his head”) and neither 
the moment nor anything like it will appear in 2001. At issue here are 
not trivial or arbitrary details, but details that Strieber’s storyteller’s 
art goes out of its way to convince you are true, details which then con- 
tradict or vanish altogether. 

At this stage, given the problems reconciling all of Strieber’s ac- 
counts of the scenario, the most charitable reading that can be given is 
that Strieber had a true encounter that was “hyperdimensional”, and 
that Strieber seems to be in a curious sort of denial about the fact. In 
his accounts, he ascribes what can only be called otherworldly qualities 
to the encounter while at the same time maintaining the opposite, as 
if by insisting on its absolute, conventional reality he is better able to 
form descriptions of the encounter and to generally insist upon the 
truth of what was ‘said’. 

Unfortunately, this charitable reading of the basic scenario of the 
‘true encounter’ does not overcome a separate set of problems with 
The Conversation. A close scrutiny of The Conversation yields ample ev- 
idence — an embarrassment of riches, in fact — that the content of The 
Conversation did not originate with the Master of the Key. 


I 


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PART FOUR 


PROBLEMS WITH THE CONVERSATION 

IF STRIEBER’S early recollections of the ‘true encounter’ are more 
reliable than his later ones, then the encounter of June 6, 1998, was 
a “hyperdimensional” one with enough strangeness that his mind was 
closing the door to the experience the very next morning. “There will 
come a day when I’ll tell you that I don’t think he was real. Never let me 
forget that he was” (6-7). One might say for good reason: a man enters 
the room with an elongated face and sharp features (much like one of 
Strieber’s ‘visitors’) and stays for something that seemed subjectively 
like fifteen to forty-five minutes, during which time he speaks by growl- 
ing and either gets up and abruptly leaves or forces Strieber to drink a 
glass of white liquid (the glass either disappearing or remaining to be 
found the next day, though squeaky clean). By morning, in the same 
way a dream fades from waking consciousness, the ‘true encounter’ was 
becoming a closed book. 

Of course, there might have been no true encounter in the first place. 
It might have been a fragmentary half-dream, half-desperate vision 
made ‘real’ later through an arduous composition process. But whether 
a dream or ‘true encounter’ consisting of growls and single words repre- 
senting ideas that can only be pictured what must be said given the early 
accounts is that what took place was not a conversation in any normal sense. 

That alone means The Conversation cannot be a transcription: no 
conversation, no transcription. 

But there are other problems. In the Afterword to the Tarcher, Strieber 
describes his notes this way: 

I saw my yellow notepad on the floor, covered with scrawls. 

It had been in my briefcase when I went to bed, so I must have 
pulled it out and taken notes. I grabbed it and looked at them. 

They were pretty much just squiggles. They didn’t seem to 
relate to any sort of a conversation. 

and then: 

Had he been real, or a dream? If you took notes in your sleep, 
they might look like this. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Here Strieber might be taking a devil’s advocate view for the benefit 
of his audience, but if the notes exist at all (they have never been pro- 
duced) the above is perhaps not wholly inaccurate. In one description 
given by Strieber’s wife, the notes are said to have amounted to a single 
page.™ If this is not inaccurate, it is simply contrary to all normal expec- 
tation that two hours worth of conversation could be reconstructed from 
“squiggles” that do not “seem to relate to any sort of a conversation”. 
And Strieber’s own account of just how this was possible also evolved 
over time. In the Walker & Collier, he suggested that it was something 
intrinsic to the notes themselves, some near-magical quality of the lines 
on paper that we are left to suppose was related to the true encounter 
itself: 


I lay back looking over the notes. There wasn’t much there — 
less, in fact, than I’d hoped there would be. And yet, they had a 
strange quality to them, as if each word was capable of causing a 
whole spring to flow in my mind. (7) 

In 2011, he would take a different tack, claiming that a personalized 
shorthand system was something he had always used: 

I have a pretty good memory and I took — I take mnemonic 
notes. In other words, I’ll take a note that just says, you know, a 
couple of words maybe. Here and there. And I can always pretty 
well put together — I’ve always been able to do this since I was 
in school. I would put together, sometimes the note just a little 
symbol, or it’ll be two words, and I could really put it together 
pretty well from that. [Knapp: Yeah, your own shorthand.] Yeah. 

I’m comfortable with that, and that’s how I did it. [2] 

But then why call this personal shorthand system “pretty much just 
squiggles” that “didn’t seem to relate to any sort of a conversation” and 
elsewhere “indecipherable”? 

The Conversation itself also bears certain signs of being a construct. 
For instance, one finds this question: 

What is real religion ? 

From outside of time, man’s effort to know God appears as a 
single form, a work of art that has evolved across history. You 
have created it in three phases. The first is negative, the age of 


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sacrifice. This is why the Old Testament God is so terrible. [...] ( 41 ) 

then asked a second time: 

What is real religion ? 

A means of transforming accident into fate. It is a science. Real 
religion and real science are the same. ( 45 ) 

It is unlikely that this very particular sort of question would appear 
twice in a naturally unfolding conversation. It is more likely a by-product 
of the composition process that took place later. 

Lastly, there is one excellent reason why The Conversation is a 
construct: despite seeming to have a literary unity and a smooth flow 
throughout, there are things that according to Strieber were said which 
do not appear in it. Included in the Tarcher is a section called Fragmen- 
tary Inclusions introduced by Strieber thus: 

I am including a number of conversational fragments here that 
I was unable to place in context. If they are parts of more complex 
exchanges, I have, unfortunately, failed to remember them in 
their entirety. 

The fact that there are fragments left over from a conversation that 
otherwise seems organically integrated from beginning to end alone 
means The Conversation is not a faithful transcription. Things are ev- 
idently missing, and the existence of a Fragmentary Inclusions section 
leads one to wonder just how much The Conversation was shaped, its 
rough edges sanded down and gaps closed to create the appearance of 
unity. Either The Conversation is incomplete, in which case it is not a true 
and accurate chronicle of an event (a conversation) with the Fragmen- 
tary Inclusions meant to fill in the gaps, or the very similar-sounding 
Fragmentary Inclusions are an invention, raising the question of just how 
much of The Conversation might also be a creation of Strieber’s own. 


I 


380 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


THE MISSING GURDJIEFF 

“Is not this the same thing which is described in the Acts as the 
descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles, when they began to 
understand divers languages?” asked someone. 

I noticed that such questions always irritated G. 

“I don’t know, I wasn’t there,” he said. 

—In Search of the Miraculous, P. D. Ouspensky 

What did the word sound like ? 

I don’t know, I wasn’t there. 

— The Conversation (Tarcher AK) 

LIKE THE CURIOUS INCIDENT of the dog in the nighttime, certain 
things are notable for their absence. In The Conversation the most con- 
spicuous absence is mention of G. I. Gurdjieff. 

Gurdjieff was a Greek-Armenian guru who was the main figure in a 
spiritual movement that came to be called by its practitioners ‘the work’. 
His teaching was introduced to the world by P. D. Ouspensky, a Russian 
intellectual and pupil of Gurdjieff’s, through his famous book In Search 
of the Miraculous . 131 

Whitley Strieber spent around thirteen years actively participating 
in a New York City Gurdjieff group . 141 There he practiced meditation and 
rose to the level of group leader. Strieber mentions Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, 
Maurice Nicoll (another Gurdjieffian) in his works, dedicates his book 
The Path to Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and prominent Gurdjieffians, and it is 
clear to anyone familiar with Strieber’s biography that ‘the work’ was a 
major influence on his spiritual and intellectual trajectory. 

Despite the suggestion in The Key that the Master of the Key has been 
present throughout Strieber’s life — thus all the notes and flourishes of 
personal interest to Strieber, for example, Meister Eckhart — mention 
of Gurdjieff is conspicuously absent. This is all the more remarkable 
when it is considered just how much of The Conversation appears to come 
from Gurdjieff-Ouspensky. Indeed, so much of the “new vision” of the 
Master of the Key seems to be taken from Gurdjieff-Ouspensky that one 
wonders whether the reason why Gurdjieff is not mentioned is because 
of what some have called the anxiety of influence . 151 

One gets a possible whiff of the anxiety of influence in the following: 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


What’s it like, going to another planet? 

The details from world to world can be very different. But the 
basic laws of reality remain the same. 

Which is why the visitors communicate with me in Masonic terms? 

Precisely. Three is three and seven is seven. The craft is God’s 
plan for freedom. 

You are endorsing Masonry? 

I am endorsing the craft in its most impeccable form. Where 
the craft is secret, there is danger of corruption. (34-35) 

Masonry is said to have a variety of ‘sacred’ numbers, among them 
three and seven. But it is notable in the context of a discussion of “laws 
of reality” and the numbers three and seven that Strieber did not think 
to connect what was being said to Gurdjieff. After all, in the Gurdjieff 
work the Law of Three and the Law of Seven are central: 

This is the ‘Law of Three’ or the law of the three principles or 
the three forces. It consists of the fact that every phenomenon, 
on whatever scale and in whatever world it may take place, from 
molecular to cosmic phenomena, is the result of the combination 
or the meeting of three different and opposing forces. [...] 

[...] In order to understand the difference between the influ- 
ences of various worlds we must better understand the law of 
three and then, further, still another fundamental law — the Law 
of Seven, or the law of octaves. (ISOM, ch 4) 

A stronger possible sign of the anxiety of influence surrounds the as- 
sertion that three major religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam) form 
a triad, being “one system in three” (27) created by “three masters” — a 
fact “hidden” from mankind until the Master of the Key revealed it to 
Strieber in 1998. 

You find your own, in life, in love, in religion. But understand 
this: the teachings of Buddha, Christ and Mohammed are inter- 
linked. They are one system in three, not three separate religions. 

This has been hidden from you for a long time. 

Three in one? A triad? 

A triad. Christianity is the active side of the triad, Islam the 
passive, Buddhism the reconciling. Christianity seeks God, Islam 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


surrenders to God, Buddhism finds God. When you see these as 
three separate systems, you miss the great teaching of which 
each contains but a part. Seek the kingdom as a Christian, give 
yourself to God as a Moslem, find your new companion in the 
dynamic silence of Buddhist meditation. 

Then a true seeker seeks in all faiths? 

These three masters created one system. But there are many 
systems that have evolved in other ways, that have grown rather 
than been created. (27) 

Strieber refers to the “triad” and the three forces (positive, negative, 
reconciling) throughout his body of work. But he seems to always ascribe 
the notion to Buckminster Fuller / 61 for example in the Walker & Collier 
section called The Prophecy of the Key: 

More plainly spoken, the idea of the triad as expressed in 
modern esoteric philosophy is this: that positive and negative 
forces, pressing against each other, come into balance. Buckmin- 
ster Fuller called this the fundamental principle of the universe. 

(89) 

Strieber does it again in the Afterword to the Tarcher: 

If one understands the ancient law of triads clearly, his expla- 
nation of the way the three approaches work in concert makes a 
great deal of sense. Basically the Law of Three, which Buckmin- 
ster Fuller called “the building block of the universe,” conceives 
that everything is divided into interlocking triads. A triad has an 
active side, a passive side and a third side that keeps the other 
two in balance. 

Unfortunately, Fuller never called the triad the “fundamental build- 
ing block of the universe”, and according to Fuller himself as well as his 
foremost interpreter, there is no fundamental building block . 171 However 
much Strieber might want to credit Fuller with the notion of a triad 
composed of three forces, Strieber cannot help but be aware that it is in 
Gurdjieff where he finds the notion. Indeed, it is one of the better known 
motifs of ‘the work’. Here in Miraculous, Gurdjieff refers to the three 
forces, calling the “reconciling” force “neutralizing ”: 181 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


“The first fundamental law of the universe is the law of three 
forces, or three principles, or, as it is often called, the law of three. 
According to this law every action, every phenomenon in all 
worlds without exception, is the result of a simultaneous action 
of three forces — the positive, the negative, and the neutralizing. 

[...]” (ch 7) 

The Gurdjieffian triad appears again in The Conversation. In another 
exchange, the age of the Old Testament is said to be “negative”, the New 
Testament “positive”, and the new age reconciling inasmuch as “man 
and God become one” (42-43). In neither the case of the one system in 
three nor the positive, negative, and reconciling ages is Gurdjieff men- 
tioned by name. It is as if the basic applicability of the Gurdjieffian triad 
is simply taken for granted. 

When one looks closely at The Key Gurdjieff’s influence seems to be 
pervasive. For instance: the assertion in The Conversation about the “one 
system in three” is curious, not simply because it attempts to conceive 
of three sprawling religions spanning millennia, whole continents, and 
countless mutations as “one system in three”. It is curious because of 
the missing criteria used in ascertaining the three religions of signif- 
icance. After all: why these three religions? While the Master of the 
Key makes deferential comments about Hinduism and “the Egyptian 
religion” (27), clearly for him Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam are the 
three pre-eminent religions of our time. The reason why according to 
the Master of the Key is that they were created by three “masters”: 

These three masters created one system. But there are many 
systems that have evolved in other ways, that have grown rather 
than been created. ( 27 ) 

It is a questionable basis given that history increasingly suggests 
that none of these three “masters” ever existed as actual people, though 
despite this, the Master of the Key says: 

Who were Mohammed and Buddha ? 

Exactly who history portrays them to have been. [...] ( 27 ) 

However, as with so many things in The Conversation, this strange 
criterion that a religion be created by a “master” can be explained if 
ones looks at Gurdjieff-Ouspensky: 


384 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


“You must understand,” he said, “that every real religion, that 
is, one that has been created by learned people for a definite aim 

[...] (ch 4) 

In Miraculous, Gurdjieff defines “real religion” as one that is “created 
by learned people for a definite aim”, and thus not emerging thought- 
lessly out of the chaos of life. A “real religion” is devised by “learned 
people”. It appears that Gurdjieff-Ouspensky provides the missing con- 
text for the opaque assertion in The Conversation that it was important 
for three “masters” to have “created” the three systems: Gurdjieff’s 
preoccupation with real religion. 

And “real religion” is a preoccupation of The Conversation’s: 

What is real religion ? 

From outside of time, man’s effort to know God appears as a 
single form, a work of art that has evolved across history. You 
have created it in three phases. The first is negative, the age of 
sacrifice. This is why the Old Testament God is so terrible. [...] (41) 

The question as to “real religion” is even asked a second time: 

What is real religion ? 

A means of transforming accident into fate. It is a science. Real 
religion and real science are the same. (45) 

The Master of the Key’s deferential comment about the “Egyptian 
religion” mentioned above also has a parallel in Gurdjieff-Ouspensky. In 
The Conversation, Strieber connects Christianity with ancient Egypt as on 
page 25 (Walker & Collier): 

Ancient knowledge was being murdered by Roman ignorance 
and Roman power. This knowledge consisted of how to con- 
sciously form a radiant body so that you would not recur into the 
physical, so that you would be free. Christ was here to preserve 
this knowledge and pass it down. But even his deposit was cor- 
rupted by Roman politicians, who transformed his practice into 
a religion after he died. 

And in a Tarcher AK: 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


What has this all got to do with resurrection ? 

The resurrected man is a consistent theme of the mythology 
that developed out of observations of a certain type of being, 
beginning with Osiris and ending with Christ. Fully conscious 
beings adept in this science can enable the radiant body to appear 
as an elemental body, so perfectly imprinted are its sensations on 
their energetic being. 

Gurdjieff, likewise, connects Christianity with prehistorical Egypt: 

“The Christian church, the Christian form of worship, was not 
invented by the fathers of the church. It was all taken in a ready- 
made form from Egypt, only not from the Egypt that we know 
but from one which we do not know. This Egypt was in the same 
place as the other but it existed much earlier. Only small bits of it 
survived in historical times, and these bits have been preserved 
in secret and so well that we do not even know where they have 
been preserved. 

“It will seem strange to many people when I say that this pre- 
historic Egypt was Christian many thousands of years before the 
birth of Christ, that is to say, that its religion was composed of 
the same principles and ideas that constitute true Christianity. 

(ISOM, ch 4) 

Both the Master of the Key and Gurdjieff-Ouspensky in The Conver- 
sation are concerned with the ancient roots of the eucharist: 

How can we regain it? Is something like the Eucharist part of this 
science? 

Christ gave the Eucharist to mankind. But the Eucharistic feast 
was enacted from time immemorial. It began when you still lived 
in the forest. When the strong died, you ate their flesh to gain 
their strength. 

Did it work? 

Don’t joke with me. It was pitiful. 

Is there a record of the Eucharist before Christ? 

There is. (39) 

“Christ knew that he must die. It had been decided thus before- 
hand. He knew it and his disciples knew it. And each one knew 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


what part he had to play. But at the same time they wanted to 
establish a permanent link with Christ. And for this purpose he 
gave them his blood to drink and his flesh to eat. It was not bread 
and wine at all, but real flesh and real blood. 

“The Last Supper was a magical ceremony similar to 
‘blood-brotherhood’ for establishing a connection between 
‘astral bodies.’ But who is there who knows about this in existing 
religions and who understands what it means? All this has been 
long forgotten and everything has been given quite a different 
meaning. The words have remained but their meaning has long 
been lost.” (ISOM, Ch 4) 

It is outside the scope of this article to give a full treatment of the 
influence of Miraculous on The Conversation . [9] There are many areas of 
common interest as in above. But more importantly, there are instances 
where concepts and assertions appearing obliquely in The Conversation 
seem to find their missing context in Gurdjieff-Ouspensky. What one 
witnesses in The Conversation vis-a-vis Gurdjieff and Ouspensky is a 
whole spectrum of intellectual appropriation of everything from bare 
signifiers and metaphors up through Gurdjieffian terminology, ideas, 
and even an entire conceptual apparatus. Here is a brief survey: 

1. MACHINES. For Gurdjieff, the human being is a kind of machine 
that mechanically and deterministically interacts with its environment 
in an ongoing give-and-take . 1101 Not even art or culture is exempt from 
this basic automatism, and indeed, are equally pure reflections of it. Even 
ordinary introspection and everyday consciousness do not exempt one 
from being a machine as they are deterministic events and are narrow, 
limited responses to the situation at a given moment. 

Gurdjieff’s connection of ‘consciousness’ with ‘machine’ is fairly 
unique. He does not reduce consciousness to a material substratum as 
in modern science. Rather, while allowing for consciousness as a sep- 
arate domain, he maintains nonetheless that ordinary consciousness 
is machine-like, unknowing, and without exceptional effort, there is 
no ‘whole’ to consciousness greater than its discrete parts which are 
swapped out moment- to -moment. 

The novel and peculiar association of consciousness with the ‘ma- 
chine’ appears in The Conversation as well. A significant part of the dia- 
logue has to do with the differences between “intelligent machines” and 
“conscious machines”, and the term “machine” or “machines” appears 


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almost fifty times in The Conversation . 1111 The choice of words is rather 
unique as one could easily expect use of a more common term like ‘ar- 
tificial intelligence’ and talk of computers becoming conscious. Instead, 
the Master of the Key employs a distinctively Gurdjieffian vocabulary. 

2. LIFE AS PRISON. For Gurdjieff, a metaphor for the basic human 
predicament of being trapped in an inner and outer automatism from 
which an “I” must free itself and become substantial is that of the 
prison: 


You do not realize your own situation. You are in prison. All 
you can wish for, if you are a sensible man, is to escape. But how 
escape? (fSOM, ch 2) 

The same metaphor of human life-as-prison or being trapped is also 
used throughout The Conversation, transposed by Strieber into collective 
or evolutionary terms: 

Why are you here? 

You’re chained to the ground. (12) 

The wheel of life, as it is called by the Buddhists, is your prison. 

The human soul is imprisoned? 

It is imprisoned. [...] 

Will this ever end? 

Your enemy does not want it to end. They fear you too much. 

When you see UFOs, you see prison guards. (54) 

We are in chains, just as you said. But you also said you had the key. 

This whole conversation is the key. You should bless your jailers, 
because without them you could never find your freedom. When 
you, as a species, remember why you have been imprisoned, and 
you face what you did, you will be free. (55) 

3. CRYSTALLIZATION. Gurdjieff ’s focus on a man creating something 
in himself that survives constant erasure by the passage of time leads to 
his use of the term. 

The ‘man-machine’ with whom everything depends upon 
external influences, with whom everything happens, who is now 


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one, the next moment another, and the next moment a third, has 
no future of any kind; he is buried and that is all. Dust returns to 
dust. This applies to him. In order to be able to speak of any kind 
of future life there must be a certain crystallization, a certain 
fusion of man’s inner qualities, a certain independence of exter- 
nal influences. (ISOM, ch l) 

Gurdjieff-Ouspensky repeatedly uses the terms ‘crystallize’ and 
‘crystallization’ in the context of something forming that can persist: 

If a man lives without inner struggle, if everything happens 
in him without opposition, if he goes wherever he is drawn or 
wherever the wind blows, he will remain such as he is. But if 
a struggle begins in him, and particularly if there is a definite 
line in this struggle, then, gradually, permanent traits begin to 
form themselves, he begins to ‘crystallize.’ But crystallization 
is possible on a right foundation and it is possible on a wrong 
foundation, (ch l) 

“Crystallization is possible on any foundation. Take for example 
a brigand, a really good, genuine brigand. I knew such brigands 
in the Caucasus. He will stand with a rifle behind a stone by the 
roadside for eight hours without stirring. Could you do this? All 
the time, mind you, a struggle is going on in him. He is thirsty 
and hot, and flies are biting him; but he stands still. Another is a 
monk; he is afraid of the devil; all night long he beats his head on 
the floor and prays. Thus crystallization is achieved. [...]” (ch l) 

“If nothing is sacrificed nothing is obtained. And it is necessary 
to sacrifice something precious at the moment, to sacrifice for a 
long time and to sacrifice a great deal. But still, not forever. This 
must be understood because often it is not understood. Sacrifice 
is necessary only while the process of crystallization is going on. 

When crystallization is achieved, renunciations, privations, and 
sacrifices are no longer necessary. [...] (ch l) 

Strieber has recourse to this special term in The Conversation, saying 
“[w]hen they die, they will see that they have crystallized imperfections 
in themselves by the indulgence of self-will” (48). The specific issue of 
crystallization in relation to the afterlife will be shown in more detail. 


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4. ESSENCE, TASTE, FOUNDATION. These are primary motifs in 
Gurdjieff-Ouspensky. Essence is a kind of deep inner character that 
often remains hidden beneath the more temporary, more improvised 
and externally driven layers of personality. And as Strieber would 
say in an online commentary: “In the Gurdjieff work we were always 
talking about essence”. 1121 Sensation and taste are major concepts in 
Gurdjieff-Ouspensky as well. They are linked as when Gurdjieff says 
that observation of one’s inner experience can only be done “by taste, 
by sensation” (ISOM ch 6) and not through representations intended for 
the outside world. Of the five senses, taste for Gurdjieff appears to be the 
exemplar of sensory perception since it measures through direct contact 
what is already inside the human being. In this regard, it is fundamental. 

For the Master of the Key, taste, essence, and the Gurdjieffian vocab- 
ulary of “foundation” are linked: 

What is essence? 

Taste. The way a certain specific being tastes. Essence is foun- 
dation. (19) 

5 . SENSATION. For Gurdjieff, sensation can be seen as logically dis- 
tinct from emotion inasmuch as sensation is objective: 

Moreover, sensations can be indifferent — neither warm nor 
cold, neither pleasant nor unpleasant: ‘white paper,’ ‘red pencil.’ 

In the sensation of white or red there is nothing either pleasant 
or unpleasant. (ISOM, ch 6) 

Accordingly, the Master of the Key says: “Objective sensation is con- 
sciousness” (26). This is said in the context of a discussion of meditation: 

But let me rephrase it in the terminology of this more informed 
age: the purpose of meditation is twofold. It is to organize the 
energetic body so that it will not lose its integrity after it can no 
longer depend upon the structure of the elemental body for its 
form. Then also, and in an interconnected manner, it is to fill the 
energetic body with objective sensation. Objective sensation is 
consciousness. You are within life, but not entirely absorbed in 
life. Part of you observes yourself from a distance. [...] (26) 

This constellation of ideas is pure Gurdjieff. For one, the emphasis 


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on objective sensation as a target for the attention in meditation is a 
well-known part of ‘the work ’. 1131 But even more importantly, the willful 
‘filling’ of the consciousness with objective sensation recommended 
involves and produces a kind of redoubled structure of consciousness 
(“[y]ou are within life, but not entirely absorbed in life”). The redoubled 
consciousness is described elsewhere in The Conversation: 

Any specific recommendations? 

Paying attention to physical sensation is paying attention to 
energetic sensation. Being awake to oneself and one’s surround- 
ings increases the intensity of the impressions so that they affect 
the spin of the electrons that are present in the nervous system. 

In this context, being awake means being aware of one’s own self 
while at the same time absorbing impressions from the outside. 

[...] (17) 

This redoubled structure of consciousness whereby one perpetually 
tries to include oneself within oneself through self-remembering, of 
course, comes from Gurdjieff: 

“It has been explained before that in ordinary conditions of life 
we do not remember ourselves; we do not remember, that is, we 
do not feel ourselves, are not aware of ourselves at the moment 
of a perception, of an emotion, of a thought or of an action. If 
a man understands this and tries to remember himself, every 
impression he receives while remembering himself will, so to 
speak, be doubled. [...] (ISOM, ch 9) 

Strieber in his own inimitable way discusses these ideas in his third 
audio commentary on The Key, using Gurdjieff-Ouspensky as supporting 
evidence for the ideas of the Master of the Key without any recognition 
or acknowledgment that the ideas come from Gurdjieff-Ouspensky: 

So returning again and again to the place of objectivity and 
centering where I look out at the world around me and I see that 
I am part of it but I am also apart from it. There’s a kind of a 
double arrow of consciousness of Gurdjieff — er, P. D. Ouspensky 
describes in his wonderful book In Search of the Miraculous. You 
have in other words a larger vision. When the Master of the Key 
was speaking of the angels having a larger vision that included 


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all worlds, it meant that they could experience the same process 
of sensation of all of the universe at once [...] [141 

Strieber related sensation and the double arrow of attention in a 
January 1997 interview with Jeff Rense: 6 * * * * * * * * [15) 

What I got from my experience with the Gurdjieff Foundation 
was the ability to meditate and the understanding that placing 
the attention on the body and dividing the attention between 
physical sensation and what’s going on in the mind is a tremen- 
dously beneficial thing to do. It’s really enriching. And I’ve been 
doing that now for thirty years. And it’s very, very worthwhile. 

And Strieber was talking about placing attention on the body in the 
Gurdjieffian manner as far back as Communion: 

It was so extraordinarily clear. I was in a panic. I couldn't live 
with this image perpetually reminding me of the visitors' enig- 
matic presence in my life. 

I went into my office and sat on the floor, going deed into a 
state of meditation. I drew my concentration to my body, direct- 
ing my attention to my physical center of gravity just below the 
navel, and away from my racing mind. (Four) 

6. ELEMENTS. One of the more idiosyncratic parts of Miraculous is 

Gurdjieff’s teaching on the ‘elements’. Referring to certain chemical 

elements, for example, hydrogen and oxygen, Gurdjieff conceives of 

his elements in an esoteric way as substances manifesting particular 

functions. 

This Gurdjieffian vocabulary is retained in The Conversation where 

the term “elemental” is used throughout to denote roughly the same 

thing as the “physical” though far more frequently than “physical” (41 

times vs 29 times). One reads frequently therefore of the “elemental 

body”. Indeed, perhaps the most basic distinction in The Conversation 
is that which is made between the “elemental” and the “energetic”, 
choosing these terms specifically and eschewing more conventional 
pairings like material and energetic, material and immaterial, physical 
and metaphysical, any of these pairings reflecting a less Gurdjieffian 
vocabulary. 


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7. FOUR LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS. The Master of the Key is 
quite explicit that the human being has four possible levels of conscious- 
ness: 


We are animals? 

A true human being has four levels of mind. Most of you have 
only three, and perhaps a vestige of the fourth. [...] (22) 

It is perhaps no surprise that for Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, there are also 
four levels of consciousness: “In all there are four states of conscious- 
ness possible for man” (ISOM, ch 8). For both Gurdjieff and the Master 
of the Key, the lower three are routinely used, but one should aspire to 
the fourth. 

For the Master of the Key the “vestige” of the fourth is the “organ of 
higher consciousness” which consists of a “tiny layer of electrons that 
lies outside of the skin” which is “an organ in itself just like the eyes 
or the blood” (23). The tiny layer of electrons is in superposition and 
can receive visual impressions that the brain can deliver “to the area 
of the brain closest to the pineal gland”, a vestigial organ. In order to 
activate this fourth level of consciousness, one must engage in classic 
Gurdjieffian redoubling: 

You must be able to watch and not watch at the same time. 

When you learn this, it will stay in superposition even as you take 
the imagery that it is receiving into your brain and process it. (23) 

For Gurdjieff, the fourth state of consciousness or “objective con- 
sciousness” is experienced in ordinary life only in “flashes”, for example, 
in mystical states. But with effort and practice it can be experienced in 
a more lasting way. In a sense, the concept combines sensation and an 
extra-temporal orientation in which there is no longer a subjective point 
of departure for consciousness. Thanks to a sufficiently strong self-re- 
membering, the self is no longer bolted onto each passing moment, again 
and again saying “I” to each fleeting thought or fragment of experience. 
Instead, it has itself become a kind of greater object held together by the 
power of attention. 

8. OUSPENSKY'S FOUR-DIMENSIONALITY. One of the more 
remarkable imports into The Conversation comes not from Gurdjieff, 
but Ouspensky. Ouspensky, a mathematician, was fascinated with the 


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problem of higher dimensionality, a new and exciting domain in the 
closing years of the nineteenth century made famous by Einstein at the 
start of the twentieth. 

Miraculous contains many attempts by Ouspensky to link this bur- 
geoning area of interest to Gurdjieff’s teaching. Ouspensky had already 
written a book, Tertium Organum, exploring higher dimensionality and 
the idea that time is a fourth dimension of space. In his subsequent book 
A New Model of the Universe, Ouspensky devoted a full chapter to this 
special concept of time as a kind of space — a concept discussed again 
in Miraculous. 

Two clear instances of Ouspensky’s influence in this vein appear in 
The Conversation. The first is a favorite thought experiment of Ouspen- 
sky’s presented in New Model. First how it appears in The Conversation: 

[...] Am I right? 

You are, but that is a three-dimensional view, and thus limited 
by the limits of three-dimensional vision. Remember the analogy 
of how the two-dimensional being sees a solid object. As a ball 
passes through the flat plane on which such a being would be 
confined, it would not see the real shape, or even be able to con- 
ceive of it. By definition, a two-dimensional being cannot look up, 
for then it would see into the third dimension, which is impossi- 
ble for it to do. What it would see, always looking straight ahead, 
would be a dot that would grow into a line, then slowly contract 
again into a dot and disappear. It would never understand the 
true nature of the ball, because its two-dimensional mind cannot 
contain the concept of a solid object. ( 50 ) 

In Ouspensky’s New Model it is put a slightly different way: 

Let us again imagine a world of plane-beings possessing only 
two dimensions, length and breadth, and inhabiting a flat surface. 

[...] If a cube is placed on his plane, then this cube will appear to 
him in the form of the four lines bounding the square touching 
his plane. Of the whole cube only this square will exist for him. 

He will be unable even to imagine the rest of the cube. The cube 
will not exist for him . 1161 

For Strieber the object is a ball and for Ouspensky a cube. But two 
things are worth noting: first, there can be no question that Strieber 


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had ample reason to explore Ouspensky’s work while a member of the 
Gurdjieff group. Second, Ouspensky’s discussion in New Model about the 
perception of three-dimensional objects by two-dimensional beings 
occurs in the context of Ouspensky’s attempt to establish a scientific 
basis for supernatural phenomena — the same mission as that of The Key. 

Ouspensky’s very peculiar notion of time-as-fourth dimension being 
another dimension of space forms an important backdrop to the Master 
of the Key’s “new vision” in The Conversation. This is the second and 
more important way Ouspensky’s influence shows. The notion appears 
repeatedly in The Conversation and underpins the “new vision”. 

Today, higher dimensionality is routinely discussed in terms of n 
spatial dimensions plus one dimension of time. But Ouspensky did not 
view time as a separate dimension of change applied to any given and 
finite set of spatial dimensions. Rather, time was just another form of 
space and if seen from a higher dimensional perspective it would appear 
every bit as much an ‘object’ as a three-dimensional object does to us. 
Ouspensky argues against today’s more commonly held view in Tertium 
Organum: 

We have to admit that by the one term, time, we actually des- 
ignate two ideas - the idea of a ‘certain space’ and the idea of 
‘movement in that space’. But in actual fact this movement does 
not exist; it only appears to exist because we do not see the space 
of time. This means that the sensation of motion in time (and 
there is no motion that is not in time) arises in us because we 
look at the world through a narrow slit, as it were, and only see 
the lines of intersection of the plane of time with our three-di- 
mensional space, (ch 3) 

Since time is not simply a neutral domain in which change occurs 
for some n-dimensional spatial realm, but rather, change itself as we 
perceive it is the manifestation of a certain kind of higher spatiality, 
time is not simply the succession of discrete events: 

If a multi-coloured cube passes through the plane, the whole 
cube and its motion will be perceived by the plane being as 
changes in the colour of the lines lying on the surface. So, if a 
blue line replaces a red one, the plane being will regard the red 
line as a past event. He will be unable to conceive of the red line 
still existing somewhere. He will say that the line is the same 


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but that it has become blue owing to certain causes of a physical 
nature. If the cube starts moving backwards and the red line 
again replaces the blue line, it will be a new phenomenon for the 
plane being. He will say that the line has become red again. 

Everything situated above and below, if the plane is horizontal, 
or to the right and left if the plane is vertical, will lie in time for 
a being living on that plane, that is, it will be in the past and the 
future. Everything that exists in reality outside the plane will 
be regarded as non-existent: either as already in the past, i.e. as 
something that has vanished, ceased to be, something that will 
never return; or in the future, i.e. as something not yet existing, 
not manifested but merely potential, (ch 6) 

Accordingly, past and future are not two different modes of temporal 
non-existence — they both exist: 

The past and the future cannot be non-existent, for, if they 
do not exist, the present does not exist either. They must exist 
together somewhere, only we do not see them, (ch 4) 

And Ouspensky imagines a consciousness able to step outside of its 
limitation and see past and future simultaneously: 

Imagine a consciousness not limited by the conditions of 
sense-perception. Such a consciousness can rise above the plane 
on which we move; it can see far beyond the bounds of the circle 
illumined by our ordinary consciousness; it can see that not only 
does the line along which we move exist, but also all other lines 
perpendicular to it which we now cross, or have ever crossed 
before, or shall cross later. Rising above the plane this conscious- 
ness will be able to see the plane, make sure that it actually is a 
plane and not only a line. Then it will be able to see the past and 
the future lying side by side and existing simultaneously, (ch 4) 

For the Master of the Key, time is thought of in the same spatial 
terms. Man’s “effort to know God” is a kind of spatial object, a “single 
form”, and all of collective human life is present as a moment on a sort 
of Ouspenskian higher- dimensional object. The Master of the Key, of 
course, is able to perceive the higher dimensions and thus frequently 
uses the phrase “outside of time”: 


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What is real religion ? 

From outside of time, man’s effort to know God appears as a 
single form, a work of art that has evolved across history. [...] (42) 

You describe our historical effort to know God as a work of art. What 
do you mean? 

You are weaving a tapestry of living memories. This is what the 
body of man is — a great weave of shimmering, living cloth. It is 
full of all the hopes, failures, fears and attainments of the ages. 

Every detail is there, every step taken by every foot upon every 
path, not just the acts of Buddha or Christ or the great leaders. 
Nothing has been forgotten, not the single drawing of a single 
breath. All lives are all completely present in this work of art. (43) 

Collectively, as seen from “outside of time, man’s effort to know 
God appears as a single form”, but this is also true for every detail of an 
individual’s life: 

First, outside of time, all events are one, so they happen simul- 
taneously. Not that they have happened, but that they are always 
happening. Every moment is forever, as you will recall after you 
die and begin to live in your memories. You will see the impor- 
tance, then, of living a life that satisfies you and fulfills your 
destiny, because everything you have done will be immediately 
present in your consciousness all the time. (50) 

No detail is lost for individuals: 

Energy is eternal, so the part of you that is energy is eternal. 

What has been hard for you to understand is that the speed at 
which these electrons move and the pattern of their movement 
carries the taste of your being and the memory of your lives. Each 
one carries a different fraction of the whole. There are trillions of 
electrons in a single elemental body, and they contain a detailed 
memory of every second of life. This is why, for example, when 
certain areas of the brain are probed, the physical buffering 
mechanism can be paralyzed, causing the memories stored in 
this way to flood into the chemical cells. The person then has 
stunningly detailed recall of past events, as if the moments were 
being lived again. Nothing of your life is forgotten, or of all your 


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lives. When you are dead, you are your whole self, in every detail. 

The things about yourself that you cannot bear and suppress now 
are entirely and completely present to you and to all others. The 
dead have no privacy, and the living have no privacy from them. 

The dead see everything that you do. It is part of their task to bear 
the errors and enjoy the triumphs of the living. (42) 

Strieber’s Ouspenskian understanding of time clearly informs his 
vision of what the ‘life’ of the dead is like with every detail exposed and 
each being present as his “whole self”, with the soul again as a kind of 
Ouspenskian object composed of all past lives seen from outside of time. 

9. DATE AND TIME OF DEATH. An unusual detail also gleaned from 
Ouspensky appears in the material surrounding The Key. In Miraculous, 
Ouspensky had a personal concern with knowing the “day and hour” of 
his death, and raised the issue with Gurdjieff: 

A great deal was connected for me with this question. I consid- 
ered, for instance, that a man can know, and has a right to know, 
exactly how much time is left to him, how much time he has at 
his disposal, or, in other words, he can and has a right to know 
the day and hour of his death. I always thought it humiliating for 
a man to live without knowing this and I decided at one time not 
to begin doing anything in any sense whatever until I did know 
it. (ch 6) 

Strieber, like Ouspensky, too, wants to know the “day and hour” of 
his death. And in his very first Journal entry on the ‘true encounter’, 
Strieber is given the date and time of his death: 

He told me when and how I am to die, but he also said, “if you 
value your sanity, you will never utter this.” I can certainly see 
that. But I sense the truth of what he said, and I think that I have 
gained the peace of a dying man. 1171 

Strieber referred to it again in his interview with Sean Casteel: 

There was one thing that was fairly extraordinary. He told me 
the date of my death. And he said, “But you must keep this a 
secret, because if you tell anyone, then it is possible that it will 


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change.” And that is very true. Because if I told that and it became 
public knowledge, maybe someone would decide to change it just 
to prove me wrong. You know, and blow my brains out. [lS1 

One could easily ask based on this whether the ‘true encounter’ was 
not the staging of an encounter with a Gurdjieff-like figure drawing on 
Ouspensky’s account and even some of Ouspensky’s personal concerns. 

10. WORDS OF THE MASTER OF THE KEY. We have seen how in the 
Tarcher AK, whether reflecting an early version or a revision, the Master 
of the Key responds to a naive question in the same way that Gurdjieff 
was said by Ouspensky to have answered a question that irritated him: 
“I don’t know, I wasn’t there”. 

Other similarities exist in how the Master of the Key and Gurdjieff 
communicate. For example, both offer pronouncements about science 
and the state of human knowledge: 

Although you do not presently understand the true meaning 
of indeterminacy, what you refer to as quantum physics offers a 
useful partial view of the inner workings of the physical world. 
Quantum instruments of communication, as your scientists now 
understand them, depend upon the entanglement of particles. [...] 

(21) 

Look into your astrophysics texts. You will find that your sci- 
ence does not understand the darkness. (49) 

The Master of the Key speaks as an outsider, calling “what you refer 
to as quantum physics” a “useful partial view” as if the label may be 
inadequate and the full picture quite different. He also makes reference 
to “your” science, underlining he is an outsider to human affairs. 

Gurdjieff expresses himself in the same way: 

“Yes,” said G. “In many cases these substances are those which 
you call ‘narcotics’. But they can be used in entirely different 
ways. There are schools which make use of narcotics in the right 
way. [...] The substances used in these schools are not merely 
‘narcotics’ as you call them, although many of them are prepared 
from such drugs as opium, hashish, and so on. (ch 1) 


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[I]n chemistry the periodic system of the elements is without 
doubt closely connected with the principle of octaves although 
this connection is still not fully clear to science, (ch 7) 

Gurdjieff speaks of “those [substances] which you call ‘narcotics’” 
as if the term may be inadequate, and relates knowledge that is obvious 
to him but “not yet fully clear to science”. Thus both Gurdjieff and the 
Master of the Key try to speak as ‘masters’ positioning themselves out- 
side existing human knowledge using the same type of language. 

Compelling also are the similarities in the descriptions of their 
speaking styles. According to Strieber, describing how the Master of the 
Key spoke: 

[41:50] There was something about the way it worked that... 
everything that was said, every word that was said had kind 
of freight with it. It had, it seems to me, almost an infinity of 
meaning. And there were also some words used that I cannot 
remember. 

They were sort of like hyperdimensional words. [...] What 
people used to call words of power. And they affected me when 
he uttered them. [...] At the time I even noticed that some of them 
weren’t in English, at least not English as I understand it. But 
later I realized that there were some words that had contained 
whole vast complicated ideas. [19) 

Something of the same concept of exploded meaning is retained in 
the 2001 Walker & Collier, though like the Master of the Key’s appearance 
it has been rendered more conventional (5): 

He said, “I am here on behalf of the good. Please give me some 
time.” 

The word “good,” the way he said it, exploded in my heart like 
an emotion-packed hydrogen bomb. It wasn’t just the tone, it was 
the look that melted across his face as he uttered it, an expression 
of love so strong and so absolutely impeccable that I just gasped. 

In Miraculous, Ouspensky describes Gurdjieff as speaking in a fashion 
similar to that of Strieber’s Master of the Key. After a few pages of con- 
versation related by Ouspensky in which Gurdjieff has been emphasizing 
particular words in an unusual way, Ouspensky says: 


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G.’s words, in addition to their ordinary meaning, undoubtedly 
contained another, altogether different, meaning. I had already 
begun to realize that, in order to arrive at this hidden meaning in 
G.’s words, one had to begin with their usual and simple mean- 
ing. G.’s words were always significant in their ordinary sense, 
although this was not the whole of their significance. The wider 
or deeper significance remained hidden for a long time, (ch l) 

It is worth noting that this kind of exploded meaning is described by 
Strieber in Communion coming from the visitors: 

I remember that they would say words, and each word they said 
would go through me like a hurricane, evoking every memory, 
drought, and feeling associated with it. (Four) 

Likewise, both the Master of the Key and Gurdjieff seem able to com- 
municate telepathically. While Strieber is hesitant to call what happened 
in the conversation telepathy, he says nonetheless that the Master of the 
Key had access to his mind and vice versa: 

The thing is that every word he said seemed to have attached 
to it thousands of ideas. And I have in my head now the contents. 

I mean, it’s like having the contents of somebody else’s mind in 
your own mind. Or at least part of it. [20) 

ML: You mentioned that he communicated in a very strange 
and powerful way. Can you elaborate? Was it telepathic? 

WS: He had access to my mind in ways that were really unusual. 

It wasn’t exactly like telepathy, but some of the words he said, I 
can’t repeat. I don’t know how. 1211 

In Chapter Thirteen of Miraculous, Ouspensky describes an occasion 
when Gurdjieff began communicating to him inside his own mind: 

And with this the miracle began. [...] 

It all started with my beginning to hear his thoughts. We 
were sitting in a small room with a carpetless wooden floor as 
it happens in country houses. I sat opposite G., and Dr. S. and Z. 
at either side. G. spoke of our “features,” of our inability to see 
or to speak the truth. His words perturbed me very much. And 


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suddenly I noticed that among the words which he was saying 
to us all there were “thoughts” which were intended for me. I 
caught one of these thoughts and replied to it, speaking aloud in 
the ordinary way. G. nodded to me and stopped speaking. There 
was a fairly long pause. He sat still saying nothing. After a while 
I heard his voice inside me as it were in the chest near the heart. 

He put a definite question to me. I looked at him; he was sitting 
and smiling. His question provoked in me a very strong emotion. 

But I answered him in the affirmative. [...] 

And he at once put another still more difficult question to me 
in the same way as before. And I again answered it in a natural 
voice. Z. and S. were visibly astonished at what was taking place, 
especially Z. This conversation, if it can be called a conversation, 
proceeded in this fashion for not less than half an hour. G. put 
questions to me without words and I answered them speaking in 
the usual way. I was very agitated by the things G. said to me and 
the things he asked me which I cannot transmit. 

11. LIFE AS ‘ORGAN’ OF THE PLANET. In The Conversation, Strieber 
writes: “Life is ubiquitous. It is a part of the essential structure of reali- 
ty — the nervous system, as it were, of the body of God” (46) and “Living 
bodies are the consciousness of the planet. Man is earth’s mind” (30), 
as well as: 

Why is life so common ? 

Because perception is essential to the structure of the universe. 

If a thing is not perceived, it doesn’t have form. Life is thus the 
mechanism that gives form to nature. (46) 

Compare to Gurdjieff in Miraculous: 

Organic life represents so to speak the earth’s organ of per- 
ception. (ch 7) 

12. THE TAROT. In Miraculous, Ouspensky mentions his personal 
interest in the Tarot: 

What I heard interested me very much for it connected G.’s 
system with the system of the Tarot, which had seemed to me at 
one time to be a possible key to hidden knowledge. Moreover it 


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showed me a relation of three to four which was new to me and 
which I had not been able to understand from the Tarot. The Tarot 
is definitely constructed upon the law of four principles, (ch 5) 

Ouspensky has a chapter in A New Model of the Universe on the Tarot 
called The Symbolism of the Tarot, in which invoking Raymond Lully, 
Ouspensky calls the Tarot a “philosophical machine”, and in which he 
expresses his preferences for the Tarot of Marseilles, focusing entirely 
on it. 

In 2002, Strieber brought out The Path under his Walker & Collier 
imprint, a book devoted to a way of laying out Tarot cards in the shape 
of a cross akin to Ouspensky’s “four principles”. Strieber, too, favors 
the Tarot of Marseilles, and The Path was even dedicated to Gurdjieff, 
Ouspensky, and a variety of Gurdjieffians including some of Strieber’s 
teachers. 

The Path is a questionable book given its errors and doubtful as- 
sertions. Strieber writes in The Path that Gurdjieff called the Tarot a 
“philosophical machine” when it was Ouspensky. Strieber expresses 
his strong conviction that the Tarot goes back to the Roman empire 
while admitting there is no real evidence. To support his feelings about 
the Tarot’s antiquity, Strieber erroneously claims that an ll th -century 
sculpture at a basilica near Toulouse, France, has a depiction identical 
to that of the major arcana card ‘the World’, whereas instead it is a rep- 
resentation of “Christ in Majesty,” with Jesus on his throne surrounded 
by the four creatures described in the Book of Revelation . 1221 

The Path is even more problematic when it comes to its origins. The 
book is clearly Strieber’s version of Gurdjieff applied to the Tarot. Along 
the way describes his experiences in the New York City Gurdjieff group, 
how he was taught to meditate in the group, and so on. Yet Strieber 
cannot bring himself to credit his experiences with the Gurdjieff group 
as the basis for his personal system of Tarot interpretation. Instead, the 
origin of his method is more fantastically: the Master of the Key. Recall 
that in Strieber’s first account of his ‘true encounter’, the main purpose 
of the discussion was to re-acquaint Strieber with the important “path” 
that he would have a role in bringing to the world: 

There emerged an incredible promise: that an ancient path 
would again emerge. And suddenly I knew who this man was. 

Since I met one of them in 1971 , 1 have known that there was an 
incredible secret group in this world, who knew the true path of 


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the human soul. He told me then I would one day play a part in 
inducing this hidden path to resurface. He taught it to me, and 
I committed it to memory. I asked what I should do with it? He 
only shook his head. 

In The Path Strieber claims that his system was given to him by the 
Master of the Key not long after he had joined the Gurdjieff Foundation 
in the nineteen-seventies: 

During this exciting time in my life, I had what would turn out 
to be an experience of great significance for me, that has colored 
my life ever since. 

In retrospect, it seems so simple. Even though I have always re- 
membered somebody being associated with it, only a few seconds 
seemed to be involved. 

It was a Saturday, just before noon. I had been sitting in the 
small study in our apartment, clattering away at my typewriter. 

The deck of Tarot cards that lies on my desk beside my computer 
as I write this now, lay on my desk beside my typewriter then. 

I paused from my writing and began to look through the Tarot 
deck. I didn’t even know exactly why I’d bought it. Old and 
weathered now, it was pristine then, the now-worn cards fresh 
and new. 

I got up and went into the living room. In what seemed like 
just the moment as I moved through the door between the two 
rooms, something completely new to me suddenly appeared in 
my mind. The entire Tarot deck was laid out there, in a vivid 
image that in seconds focused into an idea. I went to the couch 
and sat down. I couldn’t imagine what had just happened. Had 
there been somebody here? I had the sense that somebody had 
been talking to me, that we’d been together for a long time. And 
yet, it also seemed as if I’d just stepped from room to room. 

Many years later, when I far more practiced at coping with such 
events, I would meet this mysterious somebody again in 1998, 
and would come away with the memories that led to the creation 
of The Key in 2001. (The Value of the Path) 

Of course, a very different account of all this appears in Communion: 

About fifteen years ago I became interested in the tarot when 


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I was studying the rise of monasticism in Europe for a historical 
novel I never actually wrote. I came to realize that the tarot is 
much more than a deck of fortune-telling cards; it is a sort phil- 
osophical machine that presents its ideas in the form of pictures 
rather than words. 

The story it tells is an interesting one: The face cards of the 
tarot — the Major Arcana — can be arranged in such a manner 
that they work as signposts toward spiritual evolution. [...] (Six) 

The appearance of the term “philosophical machine” here is an indi- 
cator that neither a meeting with the Master of the Key nor research on 
a novel were behind Strieber’s introduction to the Tarot. Rather, Strieber 
had been reading Ouspensky. 

13. NOT ALL HAVE SOULS. The points of correspondence between 
Miraculous and The Conversation are undeniable — and again, what is 
presented here is not a complete list. But while there is overlap in terms 
of linguistic raw material, metaphors chosen, concepts and terminol- 
ogy — and even a recasting of three world religions as “one system 
in three” by way of a Gurdjieffian triad — these cases of intellectual 
appropriation, though significant in number, are nothing compared to 
the wholesale re-purposing of Gurdjieff-Ouspensky in the Master of the 
Key’s description of how not all human beings have souls, though with 
effort one can develop one and continue after death. 

In Miraculous, Gurdjieff puts it in terms of the astral body: 

You know what the expression ‘astral body’ means. But the 
systems with which you are acquainted and which use this 
expression state that all men have an ‘astral body.’ This is quite 
wrong. What may be called the ‘astral body’ is obtained by means 
of fusion, that is, by means of terribly hard inner work and strug- 
gle. Man is not born with it. And only very few men acquire an 
‘astral body.’ If it is formed it may continue to live after the death 
of the physical body, and it may be born again in another physical 
body. This is ‘reincarnation.’ If it is not re-born, then, in the 
course of time, it also dies; it is not immortal but it can live long 
after the death of the physical body, (ch 2) 

In The Conversation, this same curious notion — that human beings do 
not automatically have souls, but they may be acquired through “hard 


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inner work and struggle” — is presented by the Master of the Key, this 
time using the term ‘radiant body’. The Master of the Key even has a 
Gurdjieffian remedy: 

I am trying to find out our relationship to it. 

Not all human beings are radiant bodies. But all may become 
such. 

You are saying that we don’t all have souls? 

I am saying that you are not all discreet radiant beings, but 
all participate to some degree or other in conscious energy. To 
remain a separate being after death, there must exist the ability 
to maintain the structure of the radiant body by the action of 
attention. This is why we have been so insistent that you medi- 
tate. Otherwise, we will lose you when you die and we don’t want 
that. If a being cannot self-maintain after the elemental body 
no longer does it automatically, it is absorbed into the flux of 
conscious energy. You go into the light, as it were. (16-17) 

The repackaging of Gurdjieff in The Conversation here is important 
because it forms the entire basis for the description of the life and death 
of consciousness in the dialogue. It is as if the intellectual edifice of 
Gurdjieff-Ouspensky has been stripped, its structure exposed, and on 
that structure a new doctrine attached that is part- Catholic, part-New 
Age, part-UFO lore. 

Recall that for Gurdjieff, the “I” is basically nothing but the site of a 
constant action/reaction from moment to moment: 

“Our starting point is that man does not know himself, that he 
is not” (he emphasized these words), “that is, he is not what he 
can and what he should be. For this reason he cannot make any 
agreements or assume any obligations. He can decide nothing 
in regard to the future. Today he is one person and tomorrow 
another, (ch 1) 

Moreover, this automatic identification with each passing moment 
means for Gurdjieff that there is no “I” in any true sense, and that man 
is basically asleep: 

“Taken in itself, a man’s being has many different sides. The 
most characteristic feature of a modem man is the absence of 


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unity in him and, further, the absence in him of even traces of 
those properties which he most likes to ascribe to himself, that is, 

‘lucid consciousness,’ ‘free will,’ a ‘permanent ego or I,’ and the 
‘ability to do.’ It may surprise you if I say that the chief feature of 
a modem man’s being which explains everything else that is lacking 
in him is sleep." (ch 4) 

Man can be said to undergo annihilation — a kind of death — with 
each passing moment because nothing of him survives. Now consider 
that in Miraculous, Gurdjieff is asked whether anyone or any part of a 
person can survive death in the usual sense. Here is his answer: 

On one occasion, at one of these meetings, someone asked 
about the possibility of reincarnation, and whether it was possi- 
ble to believe in cases of communication with the dead. 

“Many things are possible,” said G. “But it is necessary to 
understand that man’s being, both in life and after death, if 
it does exist after death, may be very different in quality. The 
‘man-machine’ with whom everything depends upon external 
influences, with whom everything happens, who is now one, 
the next moment another, and the next moment a third, has 
no future of any kind; he is buried and that is all. Dust returns 
to dust. This applies to him. In order to be able to speak of any 
kind of future life there must be a certain crystallization, a cer- 
tain fusion of man’s inner qualities, a certain independence of 
external influences. If there is anything in a man able to resist 
external influences, then this very thing itself may also be able 
to resist the death of the physical body. But think for yourselves 
what there is to withstand physical death in a man who faints or 
forgets everything when he cuts his finger? If there is anything 
in a man, it may survive; if there is nothing, then there is nothing 
to survive. But even if something survives, its future can be very 
varied. In certain cases of fuller crystallization what people call 
‘reincarnation’ may be possible after death, and, in other cases, 
what people call ‘existence on the other side.’ (ch 2 ) 

Gurdjieff leaves the door open for something of a human being to 
survive physical death, but he remains within his overall problematic of 
how anything of an “I” can survive its death from moment to moment. 
This means, of course, that for Gurdjieff, his solution for surviving the 


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death of the physical body is the same as his more direct concern of 
whether man exists at all during life: the same redoubled structure of 
consciousness which through effort and attention one is able to reach 
“objective consciousness” by self-remembering. Without this self-re- 
membering, one is condemned to life as a “man-machine”, succumbing 
to death. 

This door having been left open by Gurdjieff, Strieber walks through 
it presenting the same prescriptions in The Key. Strieber reorients the 
conceptual apparatus of Gurdjieff toward the problem of physical death, 
of course, because Strieber is above all preoccupied with the soul, rein- 
carnation, and so on. A short overview: 

1. For Gurdjieff, the “I”, for being fragmentary, suffers a kind of 
ongoing death unless through effort and attention it builds something 
able to last. For Strieber, “who does not meditate disintegrates” and lives 
on after death only as a set of fragments: 

But most of you, in the state of death, bear only fragmentary 
bits of what you were in life. Simple patterns, weak spin, no clear 
form to the radiant body and no ability to maintain it. You are 
subject to a process of recurrence so powerful that there are none 
from the distant past, except the radiant. (19) 

2. For Gurdjieff, the man who is not able to build something of 
himself able to survive the annihilating death of each passing moment 
is “asleep”. He haunts a sort of place between life and death. He does not 
live life as a real man, but instead as an automaton. Man’s goal therefore 
is to become “awake”. For Strieber, a person who does not meditate and 
is not able to build something of himself to survive physical death goes 
into the “light” and thus remains asleep: 

[...] You will find your dead in the immediate surroundings of 
their lives, for the most part, clinging to what they can of their 
memories, attempting to preserve their selves despite the mag- 
netic attraction of what would envelop them. 

So the light is not our friend? 

The light is the fate of sleeping man. Awakened man makes his 
own light, as part of the radiant choir who sing forever the song 
of God, which is the word. (18) 

3. For Gurdjieff, the creation of an “I” that lasts involves developing 


408 


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the attention. One directs the attention to oneself, and by holding that 
attention on oneself, that self is able to live on — to construct a unity 
from the process of pure fragmentation that is life. This direction of 
the attention into oneself is called “self-remembering”. For Strieber, 
maintaining oneself properly in life using objective consciousness and 
the power of attention allows one to ‘carry’ all the details of his life into 
death so that there he is not just a machine-like sum of parts. 

Remember this: if you do not watch, you do not see, and what 
you do not see does not impart any change in spin to the electrons 
that make up the energetic body. The parts of your life that you 
do not see are not carried with you into ecstasy, and it is ecstasy 
upon which the formation of the radiant body depends.!...] 

Why do we have elemental bodies? 

They are essential to growth. The aim of mankind is to enter 
ecstasy. But to do this, you must be at once fully realized — that is, 
to carry with you into death all of your potential harvest of expe- 
rience — and to be objectively conscious of this experience — not 
to be weighted with recriminations and regrets. (26) 

4. For Gurdjieff the lack of self-remembering in daily life entails a 
kind of amnesia or forgetfulness as one is constantly put under erasure 
in the passage of time. Its opposite is “self-remembering”. For the 
Master of the Key, incarnating in a physical body means a forgetfulness 
or amnesia of all past-life experience owing to being within the time- 
stream: 


Could we ever be rescued, if we destroy the earth before we were 
finished perfecting ourselves? 

Nobody can change except inside the stream of time. Outside 
of it nothing changes. Nothing can. We enter the time stream 
by inserting our energetic bodies into elemental bodies on this 
planet of which we were born. (33) 

And we lost access to the science of God— your science? 

The part of your brain that enables you to utilize electrons 
without drawing them into the particulate state was turned off. 
You became time-bound. You went to sleep, sinking into the time 
stream, which is where you remain trapped. (56) 


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For both human life is an experience of fragmentation and a form of 
“self-remembering” is the antidote. For Gurdjieff, the fragmentation to 
be overcome happens in life; for the Master of the Key, it manifests most 
in physical death. 

5. In ‘the work’, one learns to develop the attention by directing 
it into the body and into physical sensation. 1231 The Master of the Key 
provides exactly this kind of encouragement in The Conversation with 
Strieber never indicating that he has heard this before, that Gurdjieff had 
said the same thing, and so on: 

Any specific recommendations? 

Paying attention to physical sensation is paying attention to 
energetic sensation. Being awake to oneself and one’s surround- 
ings increases the intensity of the impressions so that they affect 
the spin of the electrons that are present in the nervous system. 

In this context, being awake means being aware of one’s own self 
while at the same time absorbing impressions from the outside. 

The increase in spin and enrichment of the complexity of the 
pattern of being that results brings more and more form to the 
radiant body. You will remember yourself after your death — who 
and what you were, why you existed, and what you intend for 
your future. You will, in short, acquire a true aim, and join the 
companions of God in their journey toward ecstatic and conscious 
union with one another and all that is. ( 17 - 18 ) 

Of course, the preoccupation with finding a “true aim” is itself very 
Gurdjieffian. The Master of the Key provides a complicated Gurdjieffian 
prescription here involving divided attention and focusing on physical 
sensation. 

The Conversation recreates what is, if anything, the central problem- 
atic of the Gurdjieff work — how to survive the death that the “I” under- 
goes with each passing moment — by altering a single term. The “death” 
of the ego is swapped out for the “death” of the physical body. The rest 
of the surrounding conceptual territory with its many implications along 
with Gurdjieff’s prescriptions for how to survive this death through work 
with attention and so on, remains as-is, the meaning of different terms 
only slightly altered. 

What can one make of Strieber’s use of Gurdjieff in The Conversation ? 
On the one hand, the Master of the Key’s description of an “I” that sur- 
vives death through effort is so transparently Gurdjieff as seen through 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


the eyes of someone preoccupied with reincarnation and the soul that it 
instantly communicates two things: one, Strieber’s intellectual integrity 
is open to question for taking a core problematic of another thinker and 
re-purposing it in such a way without attribution; and two, even more 
severely as it relates to intellectual integrity, that the Master of the Key’s 
“new vision” is not so new, but is Gurdjieff to such a significant degree 
that it raises obvious questions about the ‘true encounter’. 

Is this straightforward intellectual plagiarism? There is a sort of 
unknowing quality to the appropriation of Gurdjieff in The Conversation. 
It is visible in the Tarcher when the Master of the Key answers a naive 
question “What did the word sound like?” with “I don’t know, I wasn’t 
there”. The answer “I don’t know, I wasn’t there” is not memorable by 
itself. It conveys no particular insight and none of the “authority” that 
Strieber has several times imputed to the Master of the Key. But as words 
associated with another master — Gurdjieff — from a book Strieber had 
read in which a student similarly asks his ‘master’ a naive and possibly 
irritating question, the association and the appropriation suddenly make 
sense. After all, there is already more than a little resemblance between 
Gurdjieff and the Master of the Key in other respects. 

To give Strieber anything like a charitable reading when it comes 
to the undeniable presence of Gurdjieff in The Conversation, we would 
have to overlook that Strieber recast the Gurdjieffian problematic of the 
death of the “I” as the death of the physical body. We might then be 
able to see the abundant Gurdjieffian language used by the Master of 
the Key in The Conversation as the Master of the Key speaking to Strieber 
in a vocabulary he could understand and that Strieber somehow did not 
notice. But this would mean overlooking the fact that Strieber spent 
some thirteen years in intensive practice with a Gurdjieff group, a major 
portion of his life, making it all the more surprising that nowhere in The 
Conversation is there any acknowledgment by Strieber that he is hearing 
Gurdjieff. One would also have to overlook the subtle but undeniable 
linguistic influences of Miraculous on The Conversation that suggest an 
author scouring his mind for raw material (e.g. “I don’t know, I wasn’t 
there”). One would also have to forget the broad and unlikely similarities 
between the figure of the Master of the Key and Gurdjieff in Miraculous 
when it comes to their rhetorical choices, the strange multivalent effects 
of their words, and their possibly telepathic communication. 

But is there really reason to think that Strieber could completely fail 
to acknowledge he was hearing ideas with which he was familiar when 
presented with those ideas during a ‘true encounter’ ? 


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strieber's hologram: MICHAEL TALBOT 

God, then, is in the fragments? 

God is like a hologram. The whole is fully present in every 
fragment, no matter how small. 

So the whole of God is in the tip of my finger? 

The whole of God is in a grain of sand. In a single electron. A 
quark. 

I had not thought of God as a hologram before. (32) 

THE PROBLEM is that Strieber had in fact encountered the idea of 
God-as-hologram before. Strieber was featured in a 1991 book called 
The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot. Strieber was friends with 
Talbot, and according to Strieber had known him since the early nine- 
teen-eighties. Strieber devoted a chapter in his own 1995 book Break- 
through to Talbot called Michael’s Gift describing a vision Strieber had of 
Talbot being taken away to hell after Talbot’s death. While the reason 
for Talbot’s damnation is not directly given, Strieber relates cheerfully 
elsewhere in the chapter that Talbot was a homosexual, raising the 
question of whether that vision was not another instance of Strieber’s 
lifelong Catholicism finding expression. Whatever the case, there can be 
no question that Strieber had acquainted himself with the concept of the 
holographic universe since in Breakthrough he wrote: 

The Holographic Universe had been published in 1991, and he 
hadn’t let me read any of it beforehand, but when I finally got a 
copy of the book, I had devoured it in a single sitting. 

And Talbot discusses the God-as-hologram idea in the same chapter 
where Strieber is discussed: 

But are we being dreamed by a single divine intelligence, by 
God, or are we being dreamed by the collective consciousness of 
all things— by all the electrons, Z particles, butterflies, neutron 
stars, sea cucumbers, human and nonhuman intelligences in the 
universe? Here again we collide headlong into the bars of our 
own conceptual limitations, for in a holographic universe this 
question is meaningless. We cannot ask if the part is creating 
the whole, or the whole is creating the part because the part is 
the whole. So whether we call the collective consciousness of 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


all things “God,” or simply “the consciousness of all things,” it 
doesn’t change the situation. The universe is sustained by an act 
of such stupendous and ineffable creativity that it simply cannot 
be reduced to such terms. Again it is a self-reference cosmology. 

Or as the Kalahari Bushmen so eloquently put it, “The dream is 
dreaming itself.” ( THU 285) 

The concept of the hologram is central to The Conversation. For a com- 
plete discussion of the many points of overlap between Talbot’s The Ho- 
lographic Universe and The Conversation, one should see the essay entitled 
Michael Talbot and The Key. The influence of Talbot on The Conversation is 
hard to deny. For example, Talbot took the view that new theories like 
the holographic universe should seek to: 

[...] solve some mysteries that have never before been explain- 
able by Science and even establish the paranormal as a part of 
Nature. [241 


The same program was at the heart of The Key, as the Master of the Key 
was at pains to point out: 

There is no supernatural. There is only the natural world, and 
you have access to all of it. Souls are part of nature. (14) 

In his book, Talbot quotes Blake and his metaphor of the ‘grain of sand’ 
just as the Master of the Key does in The Conversation (32). Talbot also 
discusses the research of brain scientist Karl Pribram: 

In a series of landmark experiments, Penfield used this fact 
to his advantage. While operating on the brains of epileptics, he 
would electrically stimulate various areas of their brain cells. To 
his amazement he found that when he stimulated the temporal 
lobes (the region of the brain behind the temples) of one of his 
fully conscious patients, they re-experienced memories of past 
episodes from their lives in vivid detail. [...] From his research 
Penfield concluded that everything we have ever experienced is 
recorded in our brain, from every stranger’s face we have glanced 
at in a crowd to every spider web we gazed at as a child. ( THU 12) 

The same medical anecdote reappears in The Conversation: 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


This is why, for example, when certain areas of the brain are 
probed, the physical buffering mechanism can be paralyzed, 
causing the memories stored in this way to flood into the chem- 
ical cells. The person then has stunningly detailed recall of past 
events, as if the moments were being lived again. Nothing of your 
life is forgotten, or of all your lives. (42) 

Pribram’s argument in The Holographic Universe was that Penfield’s ex- 
periment could not be replicated, causing Pribram to conclude that there 
was some holographic basis to human memory. Strieber retained the 
brain-probing anecdote but seems to give it the exact opposite meaning 
in The Conversation. 

Some obscure technical language in The Conversation also seems to 
come from Talbot; for example, the notion of ‘complex patterns’ holding 
information is presented by Strieber as one of the Master of the Key’s 
revelations about the nature of the soul. The notion of ‘subtle energy’ 
also connects the two works. 

There is even the rather striking fact that in The Conversation, Strie- 
ber plays with the idea of naming his source of otherworldly knowledge 
‘Michael’: 

That’s an even more clever answer— what’s your name, anyway? 

If I said Michael? (22) 

For all the borrowing by Strieber from Talbot, perhaps even more 
uncanny is the borrowing by Strieber of himself in connection with 
Talbot. The Conversation bears incredible similarities to the text from 
Strieber’s Breakthrough chapter Michael’s Gift. 


Michael’s Gift in Breakthrough 

( 1995 ) 

The Key (W&C) 

(2001) 

[...] we little band of recently 

How do we surrender to God? 

risen animals, barking at 

Return to the forest. Otherwise, 

our visitors with voice as yet 

you will destroy the earth 

hardly changed from the days 

and yourselves. (15) 

when we lived in the forest. 



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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[...] mercy is everywhere, in the air 

Forgiveness is everywhere. It 
is the soul’s very air. (72) 

[...] there is a love that is 

[...] is immediately present, 

here and now, always 

You can find your perfection right 
now, this moment, always. (21) 

[...] had shown me what the 

love that is spoken of by 

Christ and Buddha truly is. 

What of Jesus? What of Buddha? (24) 

The darkness had taught me [...] 

The darkness is the 

the true meaning of compassion 

compassion of God (49) 

I saw the true meaning of 
compassion: that it is the courage 
to give what is most needed, no 

matter how much it hurts 

What is compassion? 

Finding what others need the 
most and giving it to them. (61) 

I saw the true meaning of “love 

Remember that the air is never 

thine enemies,” that the enemy 

makes the victory sweet as 

certainly as the light depends on 

the darkness to be seen. If there 

was no evil, good would be invisible 

so sweet, nor thy wife so comely, 
nor thy child so beautiful, as after 

the battle won. We depend upon 

our enemy for the sweetness of 

our lives. Love your enemy, for he 

is your best friend. Without the 

darkness, you would never know 
the glory of the firmament. (55) 


Given that Strieber was familiar with the God-as-hologram concept, 
as is clear from statements in his book Breakthrough, it is impossible to 
conclude other than that the ‘Whitley’ in The Conversation is a fictional 
character. Furthermore, the intense similarity between pronouncements 
made in The Conversation and the language in Michael’s Gift suggests that 
while composing The Conversation and drawing on concepts from Talbot, 
Strieber was also unconsciously reworking material in the same mental 
vicinity; namely, his chapter Michael’s Gift. 


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EVERYTHING HE SAID WAS NOT NEW 

WE HAVE SEEN that Strieber borrows heavily from Gurdjieff-Ous- 
pensky in The Conversation. For all the tremendous debt he owes to 
Gurdjieff-Ouspensky for everything from the notion of using the power 
of attention to maintain the soul after death to the triadic positive-neg- 
ative-reconciling schema to Gurdjieffian vocabulary to even specific 
turns of phrase (cf. Tarcher’s “I don’t know, I wasn’t there”), Strieber 
nevertheless fails to name Gurdjieff even once in The Conversation. 

We have also seen that the ‘Whitley’ in The Conversation is a fictional 
character: Strieber in real life was well acquainted with the idea of a 
holographic universe and the idea of “God as a hologram” (32). This 
conceit functions again to deny an outside intellectual influence. 

Now, in the central demonstration of the present article, it will be 
shown that in The Conversation Strieber borrows heavily from himself. 
As seen in the previous section, highly idiosyncratic language from The 
Key appears years prior in the chapter Michael’s Gift in slightly different 
form. Such resemblances cannot be put down to similarities between 
ideas or to coincidence: they reflect very particular lines of thought and 
a personal phraseology belonging to Whitley Strieber. 

Accordingly, what follows are statements of the so-called Master 
of the Key presented alongside Strieber’s own from published books, 
journals, and interviews with special emphasis on those from the 
mid-nineties just before the so-called ‘true encounter’. It amounts to a 
tour through Strieber’s life and thought. The list is not exhaustive. But 
what will become abundantly clear is that the greater part of the Master 
of the Key’s thinking along with numerous examples of language from 
The Conversation are already present in Strieber well before the 1998 ‘true 
encounter’. 

1. ECSTASY 

Ecstasy has a central place in The Conversation. It appears by name 
some thirty-six times (including three uses of “ecstatic”) and is given a 
specific, even technical meaning. Consistent with a variety of mystical 
traditions, ecstasy denotes a sort of affective state that accompanies 
complete union with God, and in The Conversation it has a holographic 
formulation: 

A single bit of God, which you are, does not only join the whole 


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like a crumb in a cake, it can attain so much of ecstasy that it 
becomes the whole. Your destiny, each of you, is to become all 
of God. But this process is slowed by contact with the points of 
attachment — and there are trillions and trillions of them — be- 
tween the energetic and elemental bodies. So detachment, as 
Buddha said, is essential to ecstasy. (29) 

Ecstasy can be defined, therefore, as being “all of God”. Elsewhere in 
The Conversation the point is reaffirmed that ecstasy is the basic purpose 
not only of mankind, but of all life in the universe: 

The aim of mankind is to enter ecstasy. (26) 

God is one. Ultimately, all being seeks to join all ecstasy. It is 
the destiny of every stone, every star, every intelligent creature 
and simple creature, to become the word. And the word, then, 
will be made flesh. (31) 

But the “all of God” which one is to become not only encompasses 
the joys of life. It extends to all experience — including and especially 
death. 


And did you die a Jew in the camps ? 

I died with each of them and all of them. When you kill a being, 
you kill all being. I die a million times a day. I am dying now, 
being murdered, being starved, devoured by bacteria, crushed, 
burned, shot, cut, slaughtered. But I am also being born, awaken- 
ing into new life, playing in grass, discovering the hidden truths 
of nature, enjoying the sunshine, reading, eating, engaging in 
every sexual delight known, all now, all here, always. 

And you are in ecstasy ? 

(He only gazed at me in answer.) (29-30) 

Here the meaning of ecstasy is dramatized as a kind of nameless 
state in one of the only two times in the dialogue when the Master of the 
Key does not speak, offering silence instead. Becoming “all of God” in- 
cludes the experience of life at its most intense including “every sexual 
delight known”, but it also includes the experience of death, presumably 
every kind of death ever known. Put broadly, ecstasy in The Conversation 
is a point of absolute convergence between life and death. This is clear 


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from the Master of the Key’s discussion of meditation in the context of 
ecstasy and the gas chambers: 

The proper use of meditation is to enable you to see life as both 
an outsider and a participant. The outsider notices the glimmer of 
sunlight upon the spoon, the sensation of the food in the mouth, 
for he is using life to gain impressions. The participant only 
eats. So also, the outsider sees the packed bodies around him, he 
smells the sweat and the urine, he hears the soft clatter of the 
crystals with absolute objective calm, and inhales the searing 
torment of the gas without being in any way identified with 
the injustice or the cruelty or the terror all around him. But the 
participant screams, it suffers the agony of the elemental body, 
and knows the greatest terror man has ever known, which was 
experienced in the dark gas chambers of the Holocaust. (26) 

Thus, according to the Master of the Key, it is not only possible to 
experience ecstasy in the gas chambers, it is incumbent on one to do so. 
Just as it was incumbent upon Christ when he was being crucified: 

That seems irreconcilable, but it isn’t, because even when 
Christ suffered, he was in ecstasy. I am here to get you to recog- 
nize yourself as divine — that is to say, as a participant in ecstasy 
even during elemental life. The new man will live in ecstasy, even 
though he lives in chains. (29) 

Christ’s reconciled the “irreconcilable” by being in ecstasy as he died. 
That is, he saw his death as an ecstatic experience as all life is: 

No. All life is potentially ecstatic, no matter what suffering or 
sin is involved. All life, child. (26) 

This absolute convergence between life and death at a point of 
maximum intensity is a uniquely Strieberian motif, one not properly 
recognized in his work, buried as it is under other layers. Conroy in his 
Report on Communion comes close to identifying it in his discussion of 
the role of the predator in Strieber . 1251 In The Path, arguably the compan- 
ion volume to The Key, Strieber puts the idea succinctly: 

How can a man in a burning building be as the lilies of the field, 


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or a mother being gassed to death by the Nazis with her babies 
clutching at her legs, or a little child sitting on a street corner in 
Honduras slowly dying of thirst? How can you, with your dying 
child’s hand resting like a broken bird in your own, be objective? 

But these are the times when it matters, the hard times. When 
the energy of life is greatest — whether negative or positive — is 
when God calls us to ecstasy. (Card XXI) 

Thus ecstasy enters experience whenever “the energy of life is great- 
est — whether negative or positive”. 

Strieber was developing the motif at least as far back as his short 
story, Pain, written just before Communion: 

These have to do for the most part with pain and death. For 
death is so connected to sexuality — witness the spider. Who 
hasn’t wondered what the male spider feels, submitting at the 
same time to the ecstasy of coitus and the agony of death? 1261 

In Pain, a man is slowly tortured by a sort of otherworldly dominatrix. 
The story’s premise gives Strieber the opportunity to explore his concept 
of ecstasy, as above when he connects the (positive) energy of coitus 
with the (negative) agony of death, and also below by linking acceptance 
and despair together in an ecstatic experience at the moment of death: 

The best death would be an ecstatic mixture of loving accep- 
tance and deepest despair. 

Strieber was again thinking about ecstasy at the time of his 1988 
book Transformation: 

Throughout our history we have rejected the negative and 
sought the positive. There is another way, I feel, that involves 
balancing between the two. It is up to us to forge in the deepest 
heart of mankind the place of reconciliation. We must learn to 
walk the razor’s edge between fear and ecstasy — in other words, 
to begin finally to seek the full flowering and potential of our 
humanity. ( Trans 242-243) 

and explicitly connected it with death here: 


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Is death really a secret ecstasy? ( Trans 197) 

In Strieber’s 1997 The Open Doors, he again explored an identity be- 
tween death and sexuality: 

Nobody knows anything about the sexuality of death, which is 
one of the most awful things about dying slowly. (18) 

In the slow death, there is passion, there is release, there is... 
horrible sexuality. Why do you think that public executions are 
worked by whores? Why did the dying body spring to rapture 
as the noose tightened or the gas hissed? Why did they appear to 
be in rapture, they who had given their lives? 

Being cut off from living breath--suffocated, poisoned, 
mashed — touches the body also with pleasure. ..yes, and so the 
cancerous old man becomes revoltingly sensual. (19) 

In Strieber’s 1997 The Secret School, three specific aspects of the 
concept of ecstasy as it appears in The Conversation can be found a year 
before the so-called true encounter. One, the idea that ecstasy involves 
leaving temporality behind: 

Both the body of the little boy in Texas and the young man in 
Rome were in the same state of vibrating, electric ecstasy. It was 
this state that held their minds above the flow of time. (124) 

Two, that ecstasy was what one seeks across many lifetimes: 

The child who had started out from Elizabeth Road was no 
longer “me.” He was just one of many people whom I was in- 
habiting across a great turn of centuries. Far from being a little 
boy, I was an old, old creature on a mission toward ecstasy, who 
sought — and seeks — across history for some permanent connec- 
tion to joy. (124) 

Three, the idea that missing out on ecstasy was a deprivation and a 
suffering beyond measure: 

It is not only fear and strangeness that enforce our amnesia 
about such states. They are ecstatic, and to remember ecstasy 


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that one no longer possesses is painful indeed. (127) 

Compare with: 

What would this waiting be like ? 

Energetic bodies hunger to be radiant. They taste of ecstasy 
and want desperately to find their way to the completion of joy. 

But energetic bodies need to return to time to reconstruct what 
of themselves impedes their ecstasy. If they cannot, they must 
suffer the anguish of regret and the pain of being able to see, but 
not enter, joy. When you taste of ecstasy, your hunger for more is 
appalling. It is appalling. It has driven me to wander the world, 
to construct this shell of flesh, to seek you out and come to you 
with my message, to serve you, little child, as my master. (30-31) 

For both the Master of the Key and for Strieber, ecstasy, for being a 
union with an infinite God, has no limit. Thus, for example, we find in 
The Conversation: 

Entropy is the natural tendency of all things to disintegrate. 

Evil is the addition of intention to that process. Hate is like cold. 

It has an end. Love is like heat. It does not. (59) 

And we find this at the end of Strieber’s 1995 book Breakthrough: 

We will discover then that ecstasy is an energy like heat, with- 
out an upper limit, (ch 22) 

2. RETURN TO THE FOREST, SURRENDER 

Two of the most distinctive turns of phrase used by the Master of 
the Key in The Conversation are his twin exhortations to “return to the 
forest” and to “surrender”. 

How can we change ? 

Surrender to God. 

What about free will? 

Free will is only possible in God. The will of the fallen is slavery. 

How do we surrender to God? 

Return to the forest. Otherwise, you will destroy the earth and 


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yourselves. 

Six billion people can’t return to the forest. The forest can’t possibly 
support us. 

I agree. It’s impossible. (14-15) 

Will we ever be strong enough? 

Surrender to God and your enemies will become your friends. 

( 38 ) 

But what will actually happen to us? Will we return to the forest? 

The civilization of the northern peoples will be reduced to 
shadows and memories in the minds of the living. It will follow 
its own past because of its flaws. (52) 

What is the most important thing that Christ said? Do unto others? 

That was first said in the western traditions by Rabbi Hillel. 

The most important thing that Christ said was ‘be as the lilies 
of the field.’ It is the message for the next millennium. You are 
going to return to the wild bearing the wisdom of history in your 
memories. Your surrender to earth will be your ascension to 
heaven. (62) 

The two concepts are linked, and the above is not a complete list. A 
full discussion of the use of these terms cannot be given here, but in 
brief: “surrender” amounts in personal or individual terms to a more 
complete renunciation and abandoning of self-will than has ever been 
achieved by a human being: “[ajlthough the great Sufis have, some of 
them, somewhat, surrendered to God” (28). The abandoning of self-will 
that is required is understood to be impossible, yet necessary, and in- 
volves the complete overcoming of a hardwired fear of death: 

How can we regain our vision? 

Fear is blindness. Fear rules this world. It is extremely deep. 

When a microbe is threatened, it will recoil. That’s how deep fear 
is. In the fields, fear rides. In the struggle of the deer to survive 
the jaw of the wolf or gunfire of the man, fear rides. A shadow has 
fallen here, into the very atoms that construct this place. 

This is an impossible problem. It’s beyond our ability to correct. 

If one of you could live one moment without fear, then all the 
world would be free. The emergence of physical life is at once 


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its fall and its salvation. How can you be fallen and ascended at 
the same time? In other words, how may the elemental world 
gain communion with the energetic one? The hidden meaning 
of mankind is that you may reconcile the irreconcilable. You 
are here to save all that lives on earth from the fear of death 
by surrendering your will to God’s. Read the Koran, listen to 
Mohammed. He brought the message of surrender impeccably. 

You say that it is impossible. It is. But you are here to square the 
circle. This is why earth evolved intelligence. The aim of man- 
kind is to clear the vision of the living, so that you can join in full 
consciousness to the dead, and thus learn that fear of death is 
fear of nothing. (49-50) 

Thus a radical reconciliation with death itself is entailed in “surren- 
der” whereby human consciousness, for reaching outside of time and its 
limitations, is able to overcome its absolute domination by the prospect 
of death, which in turn somehow transforms the physical conditions of 
life on earth. The Master of the Key’s concept of surrender is naturally 
related to ecstasy. One might say that surrender is the prerequisite, the 
‘willful’ decision to abandon one’s will and to, on one level, experience 
death in life, an experience itself which is ecstatic. 

If surrender is the Master of the Key’s prescription for the individual, 
returning to the forest seems to be his prescription and prediction for 
mankind collectively. According to the Master of the Key: 

When the word became flesh, it became vulnerable. If physical 
beings don’t struggle, you die. So you cannot surrender. And yet 
you cannot stop your fall unless you do surrender. If you continue 
to struggle against nature, you will die. But if you don’t struggle, 
you will die. This is tragedy of the word in physical form, and is 
the essential human problem. This is the problem you must solve, 
if you are to avoid going extinct. (51) 

And so, a “return to the forest” involves a kind of collective surrender 
in the struggle against nature. It involves on one level a return to the 
humble conditions of mankind’s origins: 

How can we regain it? Is something like the Eucharist part of this 
science? 

Christ gave the Eucharist to mankind. But the Eucharistic feast 


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was enacted from time immemorial. It began when you still lived 
in the forest. When the strong died, you ate their flesh to gain 
their strength. (39) 

The Master of the Key’s complex description of mankind’s return to 
the forest seems to suggest that one way or another, mankind’s numbers 
will be significantly reduced and man will be thrust back into the forest. 
If mankind affirms this and “surrenders”, he will survive: 

I am here to bring you a promise from on high: if you surrender 
yourselves to God, you and the earth will be saved. Otherwise, 
you will be extinct before the end of the age. (43) 

Clearly, surrender and the return to the forest are layered concepts 
with a complicated interrelationship. One can easily be forgiven for 
concluding based on this that the vision they represent originates not 
with Strieber but with the Master of the Key. 

Unfortunately, both “surrender” and the “return to the forest” are 
two concepts that Strieber was developing for many years. In an inter- 
view with Ed Conroy in his Report on Communion, Strieber said: 

When I’m with the visitors I feel as if I’m in the presence of 
human beings, but I also feel, interestingly enough, that they’re 
more animallike than we are, they don’t to have any encultur- 
ation at all, or at least there isn’t any enculturation that I can 
recognize. They are an aspect of humanity that has dispensed 
with history and returned to the spontaneous reality of the forest. 

They are conscious animals. The future. (344) 

This excerpt is notable for two reasons. For one, it gives a fascinat- 
ing added dimension to the concept of “return to the forest”, setting 
it within the visitors’ lack of “enculturation”, an aspect that appears 
nowhere in The Conversation. Second, it shows Strieber working on the 
concept with its exact name some ten years before the ‘true encounter’. 

Strieber referred to these two concepts by name in previous books. 
From Majestic: 

“These others — who appeared to us as aliens — are empaths, 
but not because they lack experience. They have returned to the 
forest; they are not men, they are beyond that.” (Foreword) 


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“Regard the lilies of the field,” He said. Why, we who are naked 
in the rain? If we surrender to the wind and the rain they will be 
our saviors; the flowers will be our deliverance. (Foreword) 

Here one can see return to the forest discussed in terms of the visi- 
tors’ lack of enculturation, but also as the “surrender” to nature. 

Strieber presents the same concept again in The Secret School: 

On the far side of the time that is coming, I have glimpsed a 
new vision of mankind, one that is no longer trying to construct 
its life out of technology and inventions, but has surrendered to 
nature and taken its part in the mysterious consciousness that 
guides the unfolding of the world. (116) 

Perhaps another way to say it is that, in order to find joy, we 
must return to our origins— in effect, to abandon the tools and 
weapons of the adult and take up a new kind of inner trust. Just 
when it seems that nature is about to turn against us, we must 
learn to trust her as never before. 

We must listen as a child does to the words in the wind and the 
whispering of the stream, but understand as an adult does the 
meaning of the weather and the state of the water. Such is joy, a 
state of surrender that knows. ..but is quiet. (220) 

It is significant that again surrender to nature is linked to ecstasy 
or “joy”, making it a remarkable coincidence that the Master of the Key 
should offer the same point of view later. 

Strieber also discussed these ideas elsewhere. Participating in a 
CompuServe forum in June 1994, Strieber invoked “surrender”, saying 
for example: 

Yes. Constant contact is getting more common. I’ve been doing 
that for a little over a year. And more of my letters mention it. 
Specifics have to do with personal surrender. 1271 

and: 


It is a matter of becoming as used to this as we are to the rising 
and setting of the sun, or to breath, or to our own lives. The kind 
of surrender that is needed is active, participating and deeply 


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freeing. It is not surrender to THEM, but surrender to ONESELF. 

That’s the beginning. 

3. BE AS LITTLE CHILDREN 

The exhortation to “be as little children” is given by the Master of 
the Key as a necessary step on the path to salvation. 

The man in the room next to this sleeps a troubled sleep, but I 
see the glory of his radiant body, and the couple above, who are 
engaging in fellatio, I see her patient faith in deliverance, and in 
him, I see a brave heart on a journey to glory. But I also see the 
way they see themselves, the shadows of their recriminations 
and disappointments. Be as little children. (44) 

The injunction also happens to be a favorite of Strieber’s. It appears, 
for example, twice in the companion volume to The Key, The Path: 

But that’s not practical, because the truth is that the knowl- 
edge that makes us what we are will not simply go away. We can 
pretend to be as little children, but we cannot really do it. (Card 
XVIIII) 

Always and from the beginning, the path has been about ob- 
jectivity — compassionate, loving detachment from even one’s 
most urgent needs and desires. “Be as little children,” reflects 
the inner meaning of the card of the Sun. (Card XXI) 

But Strieber uses it as far back as his 1989 novel Majestic: 

And so when we called them terrible, that is what they became. 

“Be as little children.” What did He mean? (Foreword) 

This was one of the things that caused the hostilities. “Be 
as little children,” Will says. Indeed, innocence does not know 
secrets and it does not know fear, (ch 1) 

And it appears again twice in his 1997 book The Secret School: 

As I turn away from the long years of denial and fear, I find 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


myself understanding for the first time the true meaning of 
Christ’s admonition: Except ye be converted, and become as little 
children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (219) 

However, Christ said to “become as little children,” not 
“become little children,” and the distinction is incredibly im- 
portant. (220) 

The full Bible reference is given by Strieber only once above [Matthew 
18:3]. Both the Master of the Key and Strieber use a condensed form (‘be 
as little children’) that does not really appear in the Bible. Strieber also 
used this condensed form in this January 1997 interview with Jeff Rense 
while promoting The Secret School. Discussing the relationship between 
childhood and the type of experiences in the book, Strieber said: 

It happened because we were innocent then. Our eyes were open. 

Simply because we didn’t know to close them. And that’s when 
the information comes in from the visitors, I think. When we’re 
too innocent not to accept it. We don’t reject anything as children, 
that’s why they come to us like this then. And why I think — I’m 
hoping — that by using the book people will be able to reconnect 
with their own innocence and open their eyes the same way they 
were opened as children. But differently, in a subtle manner. Also 
with the wisdom of adulthood. In the gospels when it says ‘be as 
little children’ then I think it has something to do with this kind 
of wise innocence. 1281 

The special meaning of “wise innocence” that Strieber gives to ‘be 
as little children’ here is consistent with the perspective of the Master 
of the Key in The Conversation as well as with Strieber himself in the 
Conroy interview when he talks of a lack of “enculturation” (Rep 344) 
in connection with returning to the forest and to surrender. Strieber 
underscores this meaning in the Rense interview by saying: 

I got a letter once, let me tell you this, from one of my readers. 

My readers by the way, the 200,000 letters we’ve got contain the 
truth of this experience, I think. This woman said a fascinating 
thing. She said, ‘my impression of the visitors is that they pray 
with the total devotion of children. But they think with the 
wisdom of an Einstein’. [291 


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4. BE AS THE LILIES OF THE FIELD 

What is the most important thing that Christ said ? Do unto others ? 

That was first said in the western traditions by Rabbi Hillel. 

The most important thing that Christ said was ‘be as the lilies 
of the field.’ It is the message for the next millennium. You are 
going to return to the wild bearing the wisdom of history in your 
memories. Your surrender to earth will be your ascension to 
heaven. ( 62 ) 

Here again, the injunction to ‘be as the lilies of the field’ overlaps 
in meaning with ‘be as little children’ and ‘return to the forest’ and 
‘surrender’. For Strieber in the 1990 book Majestic: 

“Regard the lilies of the field,” He said. Why, we who are naked 
in the rain? If we surrender to the wind and the rain they will be 
our saviors; the flowers will be our deliverance. [...] (Foreword) 

Strieber also used it in The Path (Card XXI) where it is clearly inte- 
grated into his own thinking: 

“Regard the lilies of the field” reflects the card of the World. [...] 

How can a man in a burning building be as the lilies of the field, 
or a mother being gassed to death by the Nazis with her babies 
clutching at her legs, or a little child sitting on a street corner in 
Honduras slowly dying of thirst? [...] 

So, how can we be as the lilies of the field? To be surrendered 
is the hardest thing in the world, and the greatest triumph of the 
human spirit. [...] 

5. SUPERPOSITION AND PSYCHIC ABILITY 

One of the more unusual assertions by the Master of the Key is that 
psychic ability can be put down to the bizarre quantum-mechanical 
aspects of the physical world: 

What are psychics? 

A part of the electromagnetic field that fills the nervous system 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


rests a few centimeters above the skin, outside of the body. This 
field is an organ just like the heart or the brain. It is in quantum 
superposition, the electrons effectively everywhere in the uni- 
verse and nowhere specific. It may be imprinted by information 
from anywhere and any time. With it, you may see other worlds, 
you may see the past and the future, you may see into the lives 
of those around you. You may haunt God. However, the process 
of imprinting itself causes the organ to cease to be in superposi- 
tion and thus to cease to be accessible to further imprinting. In 
psychics, there is either an inborn or learned ability to balance 
the attention in such a way that these impressions do not cause 
this organ to become focused into particulate form. The ability to 
control this organ can be developed. (20) 

Let me go back to the quantum issue, because I see that as some- 
thing concrete that we can understand. You started by talking of using 
superposition as a means of communication, then changed to talking 
about entangled particles. What role does superposition play in higher 
communication ? 

The tiny layer of electrons that lies outside of the skin is an 
organ in itself just like the eyes or the blood. It is a sensory 
organ, but not one that operates naturally, except in a few, as 
I have stated before. Even in them, it cannot be used very ef- 
fectively without higher consciousness. It is the organ of higher 
consciousness. You must be able to watch and not watch at the 
same time. When you learn this, it will stay in superposition even 
as you take the imagery that it is receiving into your brain and 
process it. 

You are speaking of opening the third eye ? 

The nervous system delivers these impressions to the area of 
the brain closest to the pineal gland, which is where this organ 
is centered. (23) 

This explanation for how psychic ability is possible is very distinc- 
tive — and very bold given that it is so technical. The Master of the 
Key identifies the mechanism, opening up the potential for scientific 
falsification. 

Unfortunately, Strieber was identifying the same mechanism before 
the ‘true encounter’. From a 1997 interview: 


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We’re in, as a species, a state of “superposition” all the time. 
We’re both nowhere and everywhere. We are making decisions 
that turn the unpotentiated reality of the species into specific 
events all the time. But until we understand ourselves as quan- 
tum entities and cease to believe in ourselves as linear entities, 
we cannot fully realize our potential as human beings. We can’t 
be what human beings are meant to be until we do that. 

And we actually are beginning to do that in some fascinating 
ways. I’ll give you some examples. The discovery and growth 
of remote viewing, that it actually works. The government, of 
course, lied about it when they realized that all the remote view- 
ers had come into contact with the idea that it was a sin to keep 
it a secret and started running out into the public essentially to 
save their souls. [...] 

But the reality of it is there exists a very, very low energy field 
around the human body, especially around the head where the 
brain in it’s functioning generates a harmonic of an extralow fre- 
quency radio wave that hangs a few microns above the skull. The 
part of the mind that is contained in that electromagnetic field is 
nonlocal in nature. And that means that it is literally anywhere 
and everywhere. This is why you can reach out so far with remote 
viewing. You can go into the past. You can go into the future. You 
can go to other worlds. You can go essentially anywhere in the 
universe which has ever been or will be. 

[...] It’s because of the fact that there is a principle of quantum 
physics that reveals that particles are paired and if a particle is 
affected by an energy in one part of the universe, it’s parallel 
particle elsewhere in the universe will instantaneously, with 
absolutely no time lost whatsoever, be affected in the same way. 
We know that. We’ve proved that with empirical studies. What 
we don’t understand is the energy that links the two particles 
because they can literally be one on one side of the universe and 
one on the other. It’s called “quantum entanglement.” 

What we are using when we remote view and when we engage 
in psychic activities is the conversion of quantum entanglement 
with the nonlocal part of the human mind using the force of 
quantum entanglement as a tool. It’s a force the nature of which 
we don’t fully understand. [...] These psychic activities do work. 
We even know why they work, we just don’t know how. 1301 


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In that interview which Strieber gave while promoting his 1997 book 
The Secret School, his own explanation for psychic abilities overlaps so 
completely with the Master of the Key’s that it is impossible to assert 
that the explanation originates with the latter. There is an “electromag- 
netic field” or “tiny layer of electrons” or “very low energy field” that is 
“around the head” and is a “few centimeters above the skin” or “hangs 
a few microns above the skull”. It is an “organ” or “part of the mind” 
and it is in superposition. Using it, you “may see the past or the future”. 

Strieber gives a similar, if more cursory description in The Secret 
School. Discussing remote viewing, Strieber wrote: 

The process, it seems, rests on the fact that the very tiny elec- 
tromagnetic field that is generated by the brain is available to 
outside influences. (223) 

The explanation for the extraordinary abilities that the mind 
sometimes exhibits, that media generally dismiss as “the para- 
normal,” probably lies in quantum physics. Electrons in the brain 
obey the laws of classical, or Newtonian, physics. However, this 
is not true of the ones in the micron- deep electrical field that 
surrounds it. In fact, they are in what is called a state of super- 
position: they are non-local, or undefined as to their structure 
and position. This means, essentially, that they can be anywhere 
and — conceivably — in any time. (224) 

Strieber goes on in The Secret School to cite a 1994 academic paper by 
Bern and Honorton which he says asserts that “quantum physics may 
well explain the situation in just the way I have proposed” (224). 

In the 2001 The Prophecy of the Key, Strieber again cites the paper: 

In fact, there has been considerable scientific research into 
this electromagnetic field and even into its possible properties 
as a medium for what we call “psychic” exchange. In their paper 
“Does Psi Exist?” published in the Psychological Bulletin (vol. 115, 
no. 1, 4-18) in 1994, Daryl Bern and Charles Honorton attempt 
a theory of psychic activity. They theorize that “Bell’s theorem 
states that any model of reality that is compatible with quantum 
mechanisms must be nonlocal. It must allow for the possibility 
that results of observations at two arbitrarily distant locations 
can be correlated in ways that are incompatible with any physi- 


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cally permissible causal mechanism.” 

Could it be that the Master of the Key has identified a specific 
mechanism by which information gathered nonlocally can be 
introduced into the brain and processed there? He mentions that 
the electromagnetic organ of which he speaks is centered in the 
pineal, the enigmatic gland that is known to produce melatonin 
in response to light levels, and which, in lower animals, contains 
minute amounts of magnetite, which some researchers believe 
that the human pineal may also contain. Most notably, the pineal 
has been found to be the source of N,N-dimethyltryptamine, or 
DMT, an extremely powerful but short-acting psychedelic. 

In contrast to the breathless questioning above as to whether the 
Master of the Key had identified the “mechanism” behind psychic 
ability, in the Afterword to the 2011 Tarcher, Strieber was more reserved, 
even defensive: 

The Master spoke of the existence of an energetic organ in the 
body, which is generated by the nervous system and extends 
above the surface of the skin. He says that this organ, being 
composed of electrons, can be in superposition, and when it is, it 
is “effectively everywhere in the universe and nowhere specific.” 

I knew of this theory before I transcribed his words, so it was 
one of the things that I puzzled about. A paper I had read au- 
thored by famed psi researcher Charles Honorton caused me to 
think that something like this might exist, and I had discussed 
the idea in speeches prior to meeting the Master of the Key. 

Strieber’s self-serving defense here must be untangled from the Bern 
and Honorton paper. The latter for being mainly a paper on methodol- 
ogy mentions only two things of relevance to The Conversation. One, the 
statement quoted in The Prophecy of the Key to the effect that quantum 
physics may someday provide a theory that encompasses psi phenom- 
ena — a statement made only in passing at the close of the paper. Two, 
that the authors were relying on: 

a working model of psi in which psi-mediated information 
is conceptualized as a weak signal that is normally masked by 
internal somatic and external sensory “noise”. (Bern 5 ) 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Incidentally, this model is implicit in the Master of the Key’s claim 
that when the electromagnetic field is “imprinted”, its superposition 
collapses. To solve this problem, the Master of the Key has the very 
Gurdjieffian solution of divided attention by which a kind of space is 
opened up for the “signal” to come through. 

Many practices will work, but the best is to meditate in such 
away that the mind is concentrated on physical sensation. This 
relieves the pressure of impressions incoming from the physical 
world on the electromagnetic body and enables it to expand. (21) 

But nowhere in the Bern and Honorton paper is there any suggestion 
of the particular mechanism responsible for psychic abilities, especially 
one that involves an electromagnetic field surrounding the body or head. 
Thus, the issue is for Strieber is not that he had “discussed the idea” of 
psychic abilities and quantum theory “in a few speeches” prior to the 
‘true encounter’. It was that he was advancing a specific mechanism 
involving an electromagnetic field in superposition a year or more before 
it was presented to him by the Master of the Key, one that may well be 
his own invention: “quantum physics may well explain the situation in 
just the way I have proposed” ( TSS 224). 

It is worth noting that Strieber was connecting biologically-gener- 
ated electromagnetic fields with both psychic ability and mind control 
as early as Communion: 

The brain is an electrical device. As such it has a faint elec- 
tromagnetic field and even emits very, very weakly in the radio 
part of the spectrum. Specifically, it contains a portion of an ex- 
tra-low-frequency (ELF) electromagnetic field wave at frequency 
between 1 and 30 hertz. The heart and musculature also develop 
electromagnetic fields in the extra-low-frequency range. 

A more acute technology than our own might be able to mediate 
mental and physical functioning to a great degree by the use of 
sensitive ELF transmitters and receivers. It is more prosaic, per- 
haps, than the magic of extrasensory perception. But it has just 
enough plausibility to suggest that external control of the mind, 
and even the implantation of perceptions (hearing voices inside 
the head), is not beyond the realm of possibility. (Three) 

While Strieber does not directly link the field generated by the brain 


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and psychic ability at this early stage, it is significant that he mentions 
the latter in the same context. In the above passage, Strieber connects 
his ‘field’ instead with the issue of mind control, just as he does in The 
Conversation. 

6. MIND CONTROL 

A passage of interest in the problem of the differences between the 
Walker & Collier and the Tarcher versions of The Conversation centers 
around mind control. Both agree that mind control is being performed 
on the human population. One asserts that courtesy of his implant, 
Whitley Strieber is immune to it (Tarcher). 

Both also agree as to the means. In this exchange, the Tarcher differs 
from the Walker & Collier only in the addition of the first sentence. 

Radio frequencies. Extremely sensitive circuits can pick up and 
decode thought. Microwaves can be used to project thought into 
the brain. But the fields of which I speak are much more general. 

They create tendencies. The desire is to preserve the maximum 
amount of freedom in the maximum number of individuals. 

Strieber was already thinking along these lines in Communion, as 
previously seen. But the lineage of the Master of the Key’s assertion is 
even more apparent in The Secret School: 

If government agents can successfully read minds and remote 
view, so can anybody. 

The process, it seems, rests on the fact that the very tiny 
electromagnetic field that is generated by the brain is available 
to outside influences. Previously, it could only be measured by 
contacts that touched the skull, as in an electroencephalogram. 

But recent advances in circuit sensitivity have made it possible 
to detect it from a distance. Some patents suggest it can also be 
deranged or intruded upon with correctly tuned frequencies. ( 223 ) 

Thus one goes from a discussion of “circuit sensitivity” in The Secret 
School to “extremely sensitive circuits” in The Conversation. 

Strieber will proceed from the notion of electromagnetic interaction 
with consciousness to the concept of a specifically conscious form of 
energy. 


434 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


7. CONSCIOUS ENERGY 

Now this is the first time I had ever heard the phrase ‘conscious 
energy’. 1311 

Strieber claims in his 2003/4 audio commentary on The Key that 
he had never heard the phrase “conscious energy” prior to his ‘true 
encounter’. But he was using it in his 1988 book Transformation: 

They have taught me by demonstration that I have a soul sep- 
arate from my body. My own observations while detached from 
my body suggest that the soul is some form of conscious energy, 
possibly electromagnetic in nature. ( Trans 240) 

According to the Master of the Key, everything is conscious to some 
degree. As it gains in complexity, that energy can gain a sort of indepen- 
dent existence as a lifeform: 

Conscious energy is not like unconscious energy, the servant 
of those who understand its laws. To gain access to the powers of 
conscious energy, you must evolve a relationship with it. Learn 
its needs, learn to fulfill them. But also remember, it is part of the 
electromagnetic spectrum, easily detectable by your science as it 
exists now. You can learn to signal and be heard, and to record 
response. The veil between the worlds can fall. The undiscovered 
country can become your backyard. (15) 

But the science of the soul is just another science. There is 
no supernatural, only physics. But the physics and electronics 
involved in communicating with living energy is very subtle. 
Nothing, however, that you are not capable of now. The devices 
needed to make your beginning are already sold in stores. (40) 

It is perhaps no surprise that Strieber was thinking along these lines 
before his ‘true encounter’. In this 1997 interview, a year before the ‘true 
encounter’, Strieber was talking about the use of scientific instruments 
to detect a new kind of energy that is “alive” and “exists in an entirely 
energetic format”. And after detecting it with instruments, Strieber said, 
we would be able to interact with it: 


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I would like to see science use the close encounter experience 
and the presence of UFOs to extend the borderlines of what we 
perceive to be the real world. Just as in the past, when we devised 
a long series of scientific instruments, beginning way back in the 
classical period when we developed geometry and became able 
to do things like measure the circumference of the earth and the 
development of the telescope. To the development of the radio 
receiver and the understanding of how to transmit messages 
over the radio. To the development of so many other devices that 
detect different levels of energy, magnetism, gravity, ultraviolet 
and higher levels of light. Microwaves. Extra low frequency, high 
frequency, etc. and so forth. We need to be able to determine 
whether or not, on some level, there is an additional energy to 
measure. And learn to measure to that. I think that probably what 
we’re going to find is there is such an energy, and that it’s going 
to be the first of those energies that’s alive that we’ve measured. 

And that we’re going to find that life exists in an entirely ener- 
getic format. And that we’re going to be able to measure this and 
understand it and interact with it objectively in the future. That 
would be my hope. Our religions right now are the best way we 
have of interacting with this level of reality. But I feel quite sure 
there are better ones that we can discover. [32] 

Thus life can exist that is “entirely energetic” according to Strieber, 
or as the Master of the Key calls it, “living energy” (40). What might that 
living energy look like? 

8. PLASMA 

According to the Master of the Key, energetic beings, which are 
conscious to varying degrees, can appear as plasmas: 

[Use devices] that detect magnetic fields and electromagnetic 
plasmas. You will find living energetic beings in this way. They 
will not be very richly alive, but they will be there. You may also 
detect simple energetic beings that have little intelligence. They 
are all around you. (41) 

The Master of the Key also uses the term “plasma” somewhat inter- 
changeably with the term “soul”: 


436 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Can the soul be destroyed? 

An atomic explosion throws all plasmas into chaos. (59) 

But Strieber was already associating consciousness with plasma long 
before his ‘true encounter’. He was writing about consciousness and 
plasmas elsewhere, for example, in Transformation: 

First, there appears to me to be some part of ourselves that 
can live outside the body. Judging from my own movements and 
behavior in that state I would suggest that it must be some sort of 
plasma. It would seem that a being can exist in an energetic form 
that is in no direct way sustained by the brain/body system. (200) 

And he discussed the concept in a highly developed way in his 1989 
interview with Ed Conroy: 

For example, if consciousness has a plasmic form, and I think 
it does, then many of these lights people see and the balls of light 
that come into their rooms at night, and so forth, are literally 
projections of this plasma. Then it’s probable, also, that this 
plasma is extremely old, and it may even predate matter, that it 
could literally be the oldest thing in the universe. [...] I’m sug- 
gesting that there may ultimately be consciousness which may 
be measurable and directly accessible to communication, using 
the right technology, and this consciousness may be completely 
indistinguishable from what we now call God. It may be this 
consciousness is responsible for what is happening to us. 1331 

The Conroy excerpt is significant because it presents the idea that 
there are lifeforms composed of conscious energy or plasma that are 
extremely old, so old they may “predate matter”. The Master of the Key 
tells us the same thing: 

The energetic world is much larger, vastly more ancient and 
more complex than the elemental one. It teems with beings, 
many of them immeasurably conscious and invested across the 
whole sweep of time and beyond time. It is enormous beyond 
measure, stretching across all time and all space, including not 
only this universe but many other universes. (67) 


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Strieber’s comment to Conroy above is made in the context of a 
discussion of alien abductions. Strieber not only refers to plasmas and 
consciousness, but says such things are “accessible to communication, 
using the right technology”. This obviously reappears in The Conversation 
more than ten years later. 

More subtle, though, is the idea expressed in the statement: “It may 
be this consciousness is responsible for what is happening to us”. Bear 
in mind that Strieber is talking about aliens, balls of light, and a variety 
of energetic beings, all of which, he says, “may be completely indistin- 
guishable from what we now call God”. Not only is this view expressed in 
The Conversation — that all beings are one, and are “all of God”. But even 
the idea that the whole alien abduction phenomenon together with the 
“secrecy” are a manifestation of the participation by energetic beings in 
our reality also appears in The Conversation: 

Could aliens walk among us without our noticing ? 

By bending light, they can be invisible, and walk here to some 
extent, and also by using means to prevent you from looking at 
them by influencing your mind from a distance. But there are 
also those patterned on the same template as you, and they walk 
freely here. It is their job to enforce secrecy. This is the source of 
all the confusion about this. They appear, for example, to be part 
of your government, but they only use it as camouflage and as a 
source of power. Earthly institutions do not control the secrecy. 

It is controlled from a higher level. 

Are you on that level ? 

Yes. 

Another world is in control of this one ? 

Other worlds participate, both elemental and energetic. ( 36 ) 

Will we learn it? 

When it is time, all will come to you. But remember, it is you 
who will choose the time. You exist on many levels, the living in 
their levels and the dead in their levels. Man is governed from 
the radiant level. 

But our world is dying and falling into chaos? How can we be gov- 
erned poorly from such a high level? 

Man is a child. Children govern children with the wisdom of 
children. ( 35 ) 


438 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


One finds this idea expressed very compactly in Communion: 

In some sense, their emergence into human consciousness 
seemed to me to represent life — or the universe itself — engaged 
to some deep act of creation. (Three) 

9. DESTRUCTION OF SOULS, HARVESTING SOULS 

The physicality of the soul is a basic feature of the “new vision” of- 
fered by the Master of the Key. In the broadest sense as conscious energy, 
it can be interacted with in a variety of ways including, for example, 
detection using instruments as mentioned. 

But The Conversation gives a variety of other scenarios in which the 
soul suffers the vicissitudes of a physical existence, many unpleasant. 

Can the soul be destroyed? 

An atomic explosion throws all plasmas into chaos. They can 
also destroy themselves, and technological intervention may 
destroy them. Souls may last forever, but they may be exploited, 
even killed. They may be executed. 

How can they be exploited? 

Material of souls is harvested and used to make intelligent 
machines. (59) 

1 ...] 

Do we all share in the production and reconstruction of souls? 

Souls can do more than regret. There can be so much loathing 
that they commit suicide. They do this by isolating themselves 
from the greater whole, by seeking toward chaos. (59) 

That’s horrifying. 

Human souls have been harvested for this purpose for thou- 
sands of years. 

By whom? 

By whomsoever wishes to and can. Until mankind establishes 
his own place in the cosmos, there will always be those who use 
you like cattle. (66) 

Thus according to the Master of the Key, souls can commit suicide, 
be killed, executed, exploited, and even harvested. 

Many would regard this basic physicality of the soul as novel, and 
conceivably it could argue in favor of the authenticity of The Conversa- 


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tion. That human souls could be harvested, for example, seems a lurid, 
unusual notion. 

Strieber, however, had been developing this perspective years prior 
to the ‘true encounter’. In Breakthrough, for example, the physicality of 
the soul is plainly stated: 

However, the recognition that the soul is actually as much a 
part of the physical world as the body — a conclusion that is, to 
me, almost inescapable at this point — will inevitably lead to the 
discovery of previously undetected extensions of reality, (ch l) 

In Transformation, Strieber says souls can be killed: 

I thought perhaps we have a potentially immortal soul, but one 
that can be killed even after the body dies. (166) 

In fact, all the various fates that can befall a soul in the Master of 
the Key’s “new vision” seem to have been explored in Strieber’s previous 
work, especially his fiction. In Strieber’s Cat Magic, for example, his main 
character is in danger of having her soul devoured: 

She felt herself disappearing, becoming less than nothing. The 
wires were its teeth: it was eating her soul. (316) 

There are so many such cases in Strieber’s work that it is impossible 
to list them here completely. Here is a short selection: 

Perhaps there is a burst of very fine energy as the soul explodes 
from the body — an energy which can be used for the most subtle 
and powerful purposes. Or perhaps the soul is, simply, food for 
finer bellies. (Pain) 

“They feed on us all.” Because of what he knew about their 
feeding, he was frightened even to enjoy the secrecy of his 
marriage, unable to really go in the lights of home or smell the 
paprika-warm memories of dinner, unable to genuinely behold 
the skin of his wife glowing in the light of a lamp, afraid to touch 
the pressed sweetness of their bedclothes, unwilling to lay him- 
self down. ( Open Doors ) 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Had they come because of the fire of the bomb, somehow at- 
tracted by its fury, or was it that atomic explosion is so violent 
that it poisons also the world of the soul? ( Open Doors ) 

Of course we had the souls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (in his 
worst dreams, even the souls are gone.) ( Open Doors) 

A soul is part of the physical universe, and can be affected by 
appropriate technologies. It can get sick and be nursed and even 
medicated. Often the visitors say that they are doctors. They are, 
but it is the soul they wish to heal. 

Souls can die, in the sense that they reject all identity and 
become simply an empty mote of potential. 

Sometimes Will seems to think that the visitors are like farm- 
ers, and they are here harvesting souls. (Majestic ch 23) 

10. CONSCIOUS MACHINES 

The distinction made by the Master of the Key between consciousness 
and intelligence is a complicated one that cannot be fully explored here. 
In one respect, consciousness differs from mere intelligence inasmuch 
as conscious energy has a physical component. 

One of the more outre consequences derivable from this reality of 
conscious energy is that it can be harnessed and placed into machines: 

There is more than one sort of conscious machine. By duplicat- 
ing the attachments between the elemental and energetic bodies 
that occur in nature in a purpose-designed machine, a control- 
lable conscious machine can be devised. A living soul attached to 
a machine will be conscious, but only able to express itself into 
the physical or sense the physical according to the limitations of 
the machine’s design. In this way, you gain the advantages that 
consciousness confers on a machine without the danger of its 
becoming excessively intelligent. A perfect slave can be created, a 
robot that carries out its programmed instructions with empathy, 
purpose and precision. And the soul can be kept in it indefinitely. 

That’s horrifying. 

Human souls have been harvested for this purpose for thou- 
sands of years. [...] 

How do they get our souls ? 


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Soul traps. The lures are the lusts and hungers of this life. The 
dead man, exploring the newfound freedom of the energetic 
world, finds himself able to visit his friends and enemies, to 
see their innermost being and thoughts, even to converse with 
them in ways that their elemental selves cannot perceive. He is 
in danger, but he does not know it, for he has not ascended. He is 
still ensnared by his lust. Soon, he will be shown something that 
perfectly fulfills his most hidden and cherished desires, desires 
he has never fulfilled. Unable to resist the chance to do it at last, 
he enters by a golden door into eternal captivity. (66-67) 

The concept of a “conscious machine” is a remarkable one when seen 
in the full light of the distinction made in The Conversation between con- 
sciousness and intelligence. The Master of the Key is not talking about 
simple artificial intelligence when he speaks of a “conscious machine” 
as is shown by the discussion of “soul traps”. 

Unfortunately, even the bizarre concept of a conscious machine 
appears in Strieber’s lexicon prior to the ‘true encounter’: 

I wonder if there could be a conscious machine? ( Trans 37) 

Its effect on me was contradictory — a machine, but a conscious 
one. (TSS 213) 

11. DESIGNING INTELLIGENT MACHINES TO SAVE OURSELVES 

According to the Master of the Key, for mankind to survive the 
coming climate catastrophe, it must build “intelligent machines” able to 
do better “predictive modeling” than the intelligence of human beings 
can presently do on its own: 

What is intelligence ? 

Intelligence is the ability to correlate data taken to the infinite. 

To save yourselves, you must learn to build machines that are 
more intelligent than you are. You will do this, and when you 
do you will discover the difference between intelligence and 
consciousness. (63) 

We’ll lose control of such a machine. 

Most certainly. But you cannot survive without it. An intelligent 
machine will be an essential tool when rapid climate fluctua- 


442 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


tion sets in. Your survival will depend on predictive modeling 
more accurate than your intelligence, given the damage it has 
sustained, can achieve. (64) 

In Breakthrough (1995), Strieber was already calling for this: 

In our struggle to save ourselves, we will discover the way in 
which consciousness actually directs the structure of the mate- 
rial world, and become able to design artificial intellects greater 
than our own, which will propel us higher still, (ch 22) 

12. INTELLIGENT LIFE IS EXTREMELY RARE 

The Master of the Key affirms — somewhat contrary to expectations 
in this period of exoplanets being discovered on a daily basis — that 
intelligent life is rare because the planetary conditions needed to evolve 
it are rare: 

You said thousands of worlds. I would have thought millions— billions. 

Intelligent life is extremely rare because planets which can 
sustain complex bodies are extremely rare. [...] (46) 

This happens also to be a long-held view of Strieber’s, discussed for 
example with Conroy for his 1989 Report on Communion: 

I’m losing my ability to believe that there are many, many other 
planets, and that they are all somehow in contact with us and all 
somehow hanging back. I have a feeling that there may be only 
a few in the universe, and perhaps only one or two others where 
we are known. I think that conscious species must be extremely 

rare. (342-343) 

Note in both cases identical language is used: “extremely rare”. 
Strieber has elsewhere talked of the improbability, in his view, of evolv- 
ing complex life, saying it evolved on earth only thanks to the unlikely 
presence of our unusually large moon. In The Secret School, Strieber 
describes what he claims was a vision he had during childhood of the 
earth’s formation: 

That is precisely what I saw in my childhood vision, thirty 


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years before this conclusion was reached by science. But there’s 
more to it than that. I was seeing the moment when life on Earth 
became possible. Without the slowing effect’s of the moon’s 
gravity, the planet’s thousand-mile-an-hour rotational speed 
would cause constant surface winds of at least three hundred 
miles an hour. The gentle winds that characterize our weather 
would instead be a ceaseless hurricane. [...] 

With no ability to sample other solar systems in detail, we 
cannot know how common it is for planets like ours to have large 
moons. But the need for something to retard rotation-driven 
winds must severely limit the number of planets on which higher 
life-forms can evolve. [...] 

The statistical likelihood that an exactly balancing moon would 
form may be low, but the likelihood that a planet would happen 
to fall into the narrow livable region around its star may be 
even lower. However, when it becomes necessary for these two 
incredibly unlikely events to be combined in order to create an 
incubator for higher life-forms, then the probabilities virtually 
vanish. [...] [T]he odds against conscious life evolving anywhere 
at all become more than negligible. (103-104) 

And later speaking of the ‘visitors’ in the context of life in the uni- 
verse: 


Could it be that they themselves are extremely rare — as rare as 
we are? ( TSS 107) 

The Master of the Key is concerned with planets sustaining “complex 
bodies” and Strieber with those evolving “higher life-forms”. But the 
Master of the Key does not mention the moon and never explores the 
issue in any depth. What one sees with the Master of the Key’s pro- 
nouncement that “[i]ntelligent life is extremely rare” is a case of a sur- 
mise of Strieber’s, a line of reasoning, being summarized and delivered 
authoritatively by the Master of the Key. Strieber was making the same 
case at around the time of The Key, writing in his book The Path: 

Without the moon’s gravitational pull to slow them down, 
winds generated by earth’s rotation would blow at an average 
speed of around three hundred miles an hour, and there would 
be no life on earth. (Card XVIII) 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


13. THE STORY OF THE PIG 

In The Conversation, the Master of the Key recounts the following 
remarkable story: 

In the Hindu tradition there is this story: The God of the Uni- 
verse became curious about how it felt to be a pig. So he entered 
the body of one. He found it delightful beyond compare — how 
good the sty smelled, how sweet were the slops, how desirable 
were the female pigs. But the universe needed tending. There was 
work to be done. So the helpers and handmaidens went and said, 

‘God, you must come out of there. The universe needs you.’ God 
said, ‘Who are you talking to? I am just a pig! Leave me alone!’ So 
they killed the pig, and God came out, and refused to believe he 
had ever refused to leave. (57) 

It is a story that one could well think originates with the Master of 
the Key. But in a 2013 Journal entry Strieber mentioned in passing two 
intellectual influences, Meister Eckhart and Patanjali, in what appears 
to have been the first time Strieber ever mentioned Patanjali by name. 1341 
Examining Patanjali’s work one finds that the Master of the Key’s Hindu 
story comes from there: 

“There is a story,” writes Swami Vivekananda, “that the king of 
the gods, Indra, once became a pig, wallowing in mire; he had a 
she-pig, and a lot of baby pigs, and was very happy. Then some 
gods saw his plight, and came to him, and told him, ‘You are king 
of the gods, you have all the gods under your command. Why are 
you here?’ But Indra said, ‘Never mind; I am all right here; I do 
not care for heaven, while I have this sow and these little pigs.’ 

The poor gods were at their wits’ end. After a time, they decided 
to slay all the pigs, one after another. When all were dead, Indra 
began to weep and mourn. Then the gods ripped his pig-body 
open and he came out of it, and began to laugh when he realized 
what a hideous dream he had had; he, the king of the gods, to 
have become a pig, and to think that pig-life was the life? Not 
only so, but to have wanted the whole universe to come into the 
pig-life! 1351 


Of course, this only shows that Strieber knew of Patanjali in 2013. It 


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is possible that Strieber only became acquainted with Patanjali after the 
‘true encounter’, perhaps even as a result of the Master of the Key’s story. 
The question becomes whether Strieber showed any evidence of being 
familiar with the story of the pig before 1998. 

In 1997 Strieber’s novella The Open Doors appeared in a collection 
called Revelations. In that story, Strieber gives his main character, John 
von Neumann, a dream based on the story of the pig: 

That night he dreamed an odd dream. In it, children had been 
throwing him slops. He had not understood why a gentleman 
and a doctor would be billeted in a barn, until he saw his own 
tracks and realized that he was a pig, a fat pig, and saw that he 
had died and become this filthy beast to whom table leavings and 
even own shit smelt sweet. He became aware that the dancing 
children were fattening him and that he could not resist the 
crusts of bacon and the boiled carrots that they tossed to him, 
even though he saw the cool interest in their eyes. 

His pig body was so richly alive that he felt like a demigod 
on tiny hooves. When he cried out, there was song in it — high 
song — and an ancient, mysterious sense of incantation. He was 
powerful in his pigdom, the glorious, the king, the recipient of 
fine foods. He loved their long arms and their pudgy hands, but 
not their dark, deep eyes — no- -the eyes opened into the un- 
known — but they served him in their shorts and boots, the girls 
in their starched aprons. 

Where their hands grasped him, he felt a dread electricity, as 
if they were made of shivering fire. He sang his song, he raised 
his eyes, but his servants had become his masters, and suddenly 
there was white heat in his throat and the pouring blood, and 
then their own cries of pleasure, and he heard the melody and 
was dead. 

When he awoke from this death, he was in a white room, and 
there were men around his bed. 

In both the Master of the Key’s telling and in Strieber’s dream for von 
Neumann, a greater being enters the body of the pig, is overcome by its 
sensuality, and loves the “slops”. In von Neumann’s dream, his slaughter 
is an ecstatic mixture of slaughter and joy, the pig’s voice even while its 
throat is cut constituting a “song” and “melody”, and its butchers giving 
“cries of pleasure”, all consistent with Strieber’s work. 


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14. WICCA 

What about the ancient faiths? Wicca, for example? 

Modern Wicca is not an ancient faith. It is a new faith that 
recognizes an ancient practice. The earth is worthy of worship, 
for it gave you all that you are and have. It offers an impeccable 
path. (40) 

The exchange above, a small but strange digression in The Conver- 
sation, might be surprising. Wicca, after all, has very little mainstream 
cultural presence, and it is debatable what Wicca even is, though the 
Master of the Key helpfully defines it here in terms of earth worship. 

At once surprising and unsurprising is the fact that Strieber has long 
had a sympathy for Wicca, to the point of appearing on The Oprah Winfrey 
Show 1361 while still in his ‘secular intellectual’ phase (an “indifferent 
skeptic” as Strieber called himself in Communion ) in order to defend it 
against Christian fundamentalists. 

Strieber defending Wicca on Oprah, June 24, 1987: 

Mr. STRIEBER: [...] I finally found a witch named Margot Adler, 
who’s a very famous witch, and she showed me around to a lot of 
other witches. And what I discovered was simply this, you take 
all of the nonsense and the lies and the superstition and the fear, 
mainly the fear that is in our hearts, away, and what you have is 
just another human religion. 

That’s all. And so it turned out to be a religion with really neat 
traditions, and it made a wonderful book. I had more fun writing 
Cat Magic than I ever have had writing one of my books. 

and later: 

Mr. STRIEBER: I learned so much about real reverence from 
these people, from the witches, more than I ever learned before. 
Although I come from a very loving Catholic home, I never knew 
what reverence for our earth could be until I came into the 
presence of witches who loved it with their blood. I never knew — 

WINFREY: What do you mean with their blood? 

Mr. STRIEBER: I mean so deeply, so deeply. No — 

WINFREY: I don’t think that’s such a good example you’re using. 

Mr. STRIEBER: I think it is. I disagree with you, Oprah, I think 


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it is a good example. Because what I was trying to say is that they 
love it more deeply than I imagined it could be loved. 

Strieber evidently shared the Master of the Key’s sympathetic view 
of wicca long before the ‘true encounter’. It is also clear from Strieber’s 
comment on wicca in his book Transformation: 

Wicca is also known as Witchcraft, but it has no relationship 
to Satanism and other such perversions. It is recognized by the 
United States government as a legitimate religion, and many 
of its ministers, such as Ms. Fox, can perform marriages and 
carry out all the other legally recognized functions of the clergy. 

Dora and Anne and I were interested in Wicca because, when all 
the superstitious nonsense that surrounds it is cleared away, it 
emerges as an ancient Western expression of shamanism, which 
is the oldest of all human religious traditions. In this it is very 
similar to Native American and African religions. Like the other 
ancient nature religions, it has an important lesson to teach us 
about love for the earth. (227) 

Strieber even identified himself as a one-time witch in an interview 
appearing in Winter’s 1985 book Faces of Fear: “I have been a witch. I have 
experimented with worshipping the earth as a goddess mother” (202). 

15. THE ZODIAC, HAMLET'S MILL 

The Zodiac figures prominently in The Conversation where its origins 
are explained in this way: 

What's going to happen to us? 

You have come to the end of the resources that were given you 
in the time that was given you. We measured the rate at which 
you would expand and grow very precisely, and fitted your devel- 
opment to a calendar which we devised called the Zodiac. In your 
writings, Whitley, you have wondered why mankind would have 
such a long-count calendar. Why were simple farmers in need of 
it? They were not. We needed it. The constellations of the Zodiac 
are arbitrary inventions to enable us to mark the progress of the 
equinox and keep track of exactly where you are in your journey. 

At this moment, the little fish of Pisces is about to be spilled out 


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onto the dry land by Aquarius. All you know how to do, little fish, 
is swim. How will you swim upon the dry land? Let me give you a 
hint: that water of Aquarius is the energetic body. (56) 

In the 2011 Tarcher’s Fragmentary Inclusions, the Master of the Key 
gives the following advice for how the human race might survive: 

You can save yourselves by a number of means. [...] 

Understand your past and what you have lost so that you are 
no longer surprised and destroyed by the cycle that has your 
planet in its grip. Your interest in the past, instilled in you from 
boyhood, should enable you to crack the code of Hamlet’s Mill and 
impart the message that it contains. Why are you so slow? Time 
is running out. 

Of course, it is notable that it is up to Whitley Strieber to “crack the 
code of Hamlet’s Mill” which he is uniquely able to do because of his in- 
terest in the past, “instilled” in him since “boyhood”. But interestingly, 
in the text of The Conversation there is nowhere any indication that there 
is any mystery to the Zodiac left to be solved. It is presented quite clearly 
as an “arbitrary” long-count calendar of human development created, 
we are left to infer, by those who ‘govern’ mankind at higher levels. It 
comes off as an interesting example of Strieber in dialogue with himself: 
in one part of the dialogue Strieber explains to himself another part. The 
‘code’ of Hamlet’s Mill is cracked perhaps when Strieber decides that the 
Zodiac is a calendar measuring mankind’s development and puts this 
discovery in the mouth of the Master of the Key. [37) 

Accordingly, the Master of the Key is right when he says Strieber 
“wondered” about the Zodiac in previous writings. In The Secret School, 
Strieber discusses both the Zodiac and Hamlet’s Mill: 

If so, then perhaps the ancient myth of Hamlet’s Mill has some 
truth to it. [...] The mythical mill has been brilliantly identified 
by Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend in their book 
Hamlet’s Mill as the precession of the equinox. [...] 

Could it be that the deep past created the zodiac to warn its 
own distant future of the danger that would arise when a certain 
object passed close to the Earth? [...] Certainly the houses of the 
zodiac were not named because the constellations actually look 
like the figures they are supposed to represent. [...] 


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Presently, we are moving from Pisces to Aquarius, which 
science tells us has no special significance, but it would be re- 
assuring if we could find some way to determine why the zodiac 
was created. (154-156) 

Just as in one of his early accounts of meeting the Master of the 
Key, when the Master of the Key showed he was interested in a book 
Strieber was reading called Forbidden Archaeology, it appears that in the 
Fragmentary Inclusions, yet again the Master of the Key is interested in 
what Strieber was reading, this time Hamlet’s Mill. And it appears that 
the Master of the Key’s explanations regarding the zodiac seem designed 
to answer Strieber’s questions both as to the reason for the names (by 
offering two examples of their symbolism establishing a sort of general 
rule) and the zodiac’s overall purpose (arbitrary calendar measuring 
evolutionary development). 

Nevertheless, there is reason to doubt that this information originat- 
ed in a ‘true encounter’. In The Coming Global Superstorm, a book which 
Strieber says was based on the Toronto conversation, Strieber was hard 
at work cracking the code of Hamlet’s Mill, with the symbolism of the 
most recent ages of the Zodiac explained in terms of human evolutionary 
development: 

In other words, the action that characterizes the beginning of 
Aquarius has started: the pond of belief and assurance in which 
Pisces swam so comfortably is being drained, its living water 
being poured out by Aquarius. We who have always relied on 
earth’s ecosystem to sustain us must now find a way to sustain 
ourselves. 

The same symbolism of Pisces as fish-in-water and Aquarius as the 
impossible evolutionary problem of the fish being dropped on dry land 
are as they would appear in The Key. But The Coming Global Superstorm 
appears to have been finished in the first half of 1999 with a hardcover 
publication date of December 1, 1999. It is significant that while Strieber 
did not start writing The Key in a serious way until late 2000, the meta- 
phors attached with the ages of Pisces and Aquarius appear already fully 
developed in Superstorm more than a year earlier. Of course, Strieber 
might say that this was simply because Superstorm post-dated the ‘true 
encounter’, but viewed alongside all the other problems, there is reason 
for doubt. 


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16. OFFICIAL SECRECY, EVIL, AND THE REPUBLIC 

In The Conversation, the Master of the Key expresses his concern for 
the American “republic” and the “evil” of “official secrecy”: 

Government is not what it seems? 

Form an assault on secrecy. You are right to fight against offi- 
cial secrecy. It is the greatest present evil. (16) 

I have written of it— evolutionary pressure. It explains what’s being 
done to us— the theatrical appearance of UFOs in the sky, the assaults 
on us by night, the ferocious official secrecy, the collapse of the envi- 
ronment— all of it. (34) 

The United States will die? How? 

Already it has ceased to be a republic and become an empire. 

The United States is ruled by secrecy. The power of the elector- 
ate is fictional. Votes are worthless. Until the secrecy ends, the 
United States is in its death throes. (73) 

This cluster of signifiers, “official secrecy / evil / republic”, is very 
much Strieber’s own and appears elsewhere in his work. In his 1989 
novel Majestic, Strieber writes: 

An old Socialist and gentleman named Norman Thomas once 
said, “Where the secrets start, the republic stops.” (ch 3) 

Strieber may be drawing on autobiographical material since else- 
where he says that the real Norman Thomas told him this when he was 
a child. t38] 

In a December 1994 e-mail posted to a forum, Strieber associates 
“official secrecy” and “evil”: 

Budd Hopkins has said in lectures that I probably know more 
about what is going on inside the government than anybody, im- 
plying that I am somehow a part of the “inside” I, who loathe the 
whole concept of insiders and consider official secrecy a crime 
against the Constitution. [...] 

I consider the secret government a costly, unconstitutional and 
downright evil enterprise that we ought to get rid of. Period. It 


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has no business existing in a free nation like ours. No more CIA, 

DIA, NSA, NRO, or military intelligence beyond the battlefield. 

And throw open every single existing file to public scrutiny, 
without exception. Maybe it was OKAY during the cold war, but 
that’s over. 1391 

And in his 1997 The Secret School, Strieber makes this prophecy for 
the ‘near future’ in connection with the republic and official secrecy: 

The power of the military/industrial complex will end, and 
with it official secrecy. What will take the place of the old system 
will be freedom in the form of a republic that is real. (232) 

17. THE U.S. GOVERNMENT ‘TESTED’ 

In The Conversation, the Master of the Key suggests that the American 
government was “challenged” by the aliens and given a “test”: 

I don’t feel that we have access to the whole of the physical world, 
then. We’re trapped here on earth, for example. Our space program has 
lead feet. 

When you were challenged from the outside, your government 
chose the path of public denial and secret defiance. This is the 
path to failure. It must change its policy to one of public admis- 
sion and open defiance. 

You speak of secrecy concerning the alien presence here? 

Until you take your place, you will remain trapped. The threats 
that have been delivered to your government in secret are a test. 

To pass it, you must defy them. Your place will not be given you. 

You must be strong enough to take it. (15-16) 

The same interpretation using the word “test” appears in the fic- 
tional foreword to Strieber’s 1989 Majestic based on the Roswell incident: 

In 1947 somebody from outside this world attempted to form a 
relationship with mankind. First contact fell to the United States 
government. Fresh from victory and full of pride, our generation 
failed the test. We made a horrible mess of it. We did not under- 
stand the subtle and terrifying — the magnificent — thing that 
they were. (Foreword) 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


18. OPEN DEFIANCE 

The Master of the Key suggests that despite threats from the so- 
called visitors that cannot be ignored, the American government must 
nevertheless “defy” them: 

You speak of secrecy concerning the alien presence here? 

Until you take your place, you will remain trapped. The threats 
that have been delivered to your government in secret are a test. 

To pass it, you must defy them. Your place will not be given you. 

You must be strong enough to take it. (15-16) 

In the Afterword to Majestic, the same prescription is given using the 
same language: 

Despite all policy and no matter with whom it originated, our 
government must now take a calculated risk — perhaps even defy 
the others themselves — and officially admit that they are real. 

19. RESPONSIBILITY FOR ALL 

One striking moral attitude displayed by the Master of the Key in The 
Conversation is that one can be “personally and entirely” responsible for 
a state of affairs generally regarded as too remote or too great in scope 
for a single person to be “personally and completely responsible”. 

The first world is a slave owner. You are all slave owners. You 
have enslaved the people of God, your own brothers and sisters 
who are poor. Do you understand the cruelty of the world as it is 
now, with five billion people enslaved to a billion? Each of you 
owns five slaves. But you never see your slaves, so you need not 
be concerned about their health and welfare. You let them fend 
for themselves, locked away in their poverty and suffering. I will 
tell you this: when one of my children dies in the slave barrens 
that cover this planet, I also die, and you, my arrogant friend, 
even you die a little. [...] 

Yes, you are winning the battle against slavery in some places. 

But losing it in others. Remember this: every one of you is en- 
tirely and completely responsible for the welfare of all others. So 
if a child is starving in Liberia, Whitley, you are personally and 


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entirely responsible for him. (70-71) 

The notion of complete personal responsibility for everything is 
entirely consistent with the core premise of The Conversation that ev- 
erything is holographically interconnected: if a direct connection can 
be drawn between everyone and everything, then one can be seen in 
principle as being responsible for every other thing. The suggestion that 
all are responsible for all naturally also functions in a literary sense to 
give the Master of the Key the great moral authority that Strieber wants 
the figure to possess. 

Nevertheless, we find the same unusual notion of direct and complete 
personal responsibility for things that go beyond well the usual social 
calculus in a little-known interview Strieber gave prior to Communion. 
A friend of Strieber’s who appeared in Communion, Annie Gottlieb, had 
a book published in 1987 called Do You Believe in Magic? on the ‘sixties 
generation’. Strieber was featured in the book and in a discussion of the 
Cold War and the atomic bomb was quoted as saying: 

“I consider myself personally responsible for every atomic bomb 
that’s there,” says Strieber. “And I think every one of us should. 

Every time a person starves to death in the Third World or is 
killed because of some vicious, unjust government, supported by 
us or the Soviets, each of us is personally responsible. And we 
are responsible for the non-human as well. Otherwise you can’t 
really live. Otherwise you’re not a whole human being.” (395) 

Not only is direct and total responsibility present in Strieber’s out- 
look here, the example immediately following in both The Conversation 
and in the Gottlieb interview is the same: someone starving in a Third 
World country. And another Key-like motif even appears: the need for 
the darkness or the non-human in order for the “whole” or completely 
human to exist, as seen in: “Without the darkness, you would never 
know the glory of the firmament” (55). 

20. GOD SEEKS COMPANIONS 

One of the more unusual ideas in The Conversation is that human 
beings are not meant to be lowly supplicants before God, but “compan- 
ions” of God. It is quite clearly an important idea as the Master of the 
Key is at pains to convey it: 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Because you have no plan for yourselves, there is no plan for 
you. God wants companions, not supplicants. Become the friends 
of God, and you will find your plan. [...] 

It did. Very precisely. If you were a friend of God, you would 
have understood. (14) 

You will, in short, acquire a true aim, and join the companions 
of God in their journey toward ecstatic and conscious union with 
one another and all that is. (18) 

On the contrary, it is total surrender. The unfocused fragments 
of lives barely lived do not contribute to the ecstasy of God. God 
seeks true companions. Ecstasy is not ecstasy unless it is shared. 

(24) 

When this happens, the body begins to radiate of its own accord. 

It becomes at once God and co-creative with God, a companion. 

(29) 

Some of them will die in eternity and be part of you no more. 

Others will go on to become companions of God. (48) 

The notion that human beings could or should rival God has appeared 
throughout human history, but the idea that God wants “companions” 
and is waiting for human beings to join him is perhaps less common. 

Strieber, in any case, was familiar with the idea because he was dis- 
cussing it, for example, in an interview a year before the ‘true encounter’: 

I’ve never been aware of any particular spiritual bias, if you 
will, in the Visitors. They’ve been much more utilitarian in their 
contacts with me. But I have gained a lot of spiritual insight 
on my own part from my relationship with them. [...] And the 
objectivity that I saw there greatly enhanced my own spirituality 
in that my relationship with God went beyond the mere love and 
“demand level” that we usually live at where we love God and 
make demands through prayer and into much more of a sense of 
“companionship.” And I began to understand what it meant when 
it is said in the Bible that Man was made in the image of God. It is 
literally quite true that Man is made in the image of God, and you 
can feel this if you cease to be a beggar and a pleader and become 


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a companion to God. 1401 

In Conroy’s 1989 Report on Communion, Strieber discusses the idea 
that we are to be “companions of God” at length: 

If you knew everything and were eternal, you would be abso- 
lutely desperate. You would have to be extremely creative if you 
expected to remain sane. You would be in a state of extraordinary 
terror, because you would be so alone and so unable to change 
anything. You would be desperate for a companion. I think that’s 
probably what the motive is behind the physical universe. I think 
that the plasmic being — God — is attempting to create a compan- 
ion. That’s what we will one day become. The companion of God. 

( 345 ) 

If we return too soon to God, we will be an unworthy compan- 
ion. To be God’s companion, our will must first grow as strong 
as His. (348) 

We are at last, some of us, learning how to become conscious 
companions of God, which is what this species is all about. [...] We 
seek to become such a companion of God that he’s not something 
incredible, not a bearded man in the sky, or a great awesomeness 
before which we prostrate ourselves, but a friend, as ordinary as 
you or me — a dear friend. (348) 

In Douglas E. Winter’s 1985 Faces of Fear collection of interviews with 
horror writers, Strieber gives an account of where he got the idea: 

Certainly I believe in some kind of unifying force in the uni- 
verse. I once had a conversation with a great Zen master named 
D. T. Suzuki. He told me that the universe is God’s effort to create 
a companion — that this companion of God is in the process of 
birth, and will eventually emerge out of the physical universe. 

And he said that God is the receptacle of time in which all things 
happen. (20) 

21. NOT ALL HAVE SOULS 

Strieber has often imputed to the ‘visitors’ the view that while not 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


all human beings have souls, all may have them under certain condi- 
tions, as in this comment made on the website for his book Solving the 
Communion Enigma: 

It’s quite easy to communicate with them. When I had close 
encounters, I would often simply ask questions aloud. Usually, 
the answers would be in the form of vivid pictures in my mind. 
Sometimes, words I heard as if projected into my head. On rare 
occasions, spoken words. Two spoken responses were: To the 
question, what would help me the most, the spoken answer was 
“Have joy.” To the question, do human beings have souls, the 
spoken answer was “Not all.” 1411 

Of course, as mentioned in the section on Gurdjieff, this basic con- 
ceptuality comes from Gurdjieff and the Gurdjieff work. In Ouspensky’s 
Miraculous, for example, Gurdjieff discusses it in terms of the astral 
body: 


You know what the expression ‘astral body’ means. But the 
systems with which you are acquainted and which use this 
expression state that all men have an ‘astral body.’ This is quite 
wrong. What may be called the ‘astral body’ is obtained by means 
of fusion, that is, by means of terribly hard inner work and strug- 
gle. Man is not born with it. And only very few men acquire an 
‘astral body.’ If it is formed it may continue to live after the death 
of the physical body, and it may be born again in another physical 
body. This is ‘reincarnation.’ If it is not re-born, then, in the 
course of time, it also dies; it is not immortal but it can live long 
after the death of the physical body, (ch 2) 

In The Conversation, the same curious notion — that not all human 
beings have souls, but they may acquire them — is presented in terms 
of the radiant body: 

I am trying to find out our relationship to it. 

Not all human beings are radiant bodies. But all may become 
such. (16) 


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22. SOULS TIED TO SENSUAL DESIRES 

One of the more striking ideas in The Conversation is that there is a 
world of the dead where they are in a sense still living ‘lives’. According 
to the Master of the Key: 

You will find your dead in the immediate surroundings of their 
lives, for the most part, clinging to what they can of their mem- 
ories, attempting to preserve their selves despite the magnetic 
attraction of what would envelop them. (18) 

Most dead appear as innocent children, longing for sensual 
lives and hoping that a body will be sparked that fits them. Some 
are aware enough of radiant being to try to ascend, but they 
always drift back, or if they become lost, are returned to earth. 

(23-24) 

The dead are said to haunt the vicinity of their “sensual” lives. It 
is a striking notion, but one already discussed by Strieber. According 
to Strieber in Transformation, a psychiatrist named George Ritchie died 
of pneumonia for exactly nine minutes before returning to life. Ritchie 
wrote about his experiences in a book called Return from Tomorrow. In 
Strieber’s recounting of Ritchie’s experience we again have the word 
“sensual”: 

Does this mean that souls are all around us, able to see and hear 
everything? Dr. Ritchie reported that he saw souls tied to their 
sensual desires, wandering everywhere in the world. ( Trans 200) 

In fact, this assumption that the dead have ‘lives’ of their own was 
being made by Strieber at least as far back as Communion: 

Another thought was that the visitors might really be our own 
dead. Maybe we were a larval form, and the adults of our species 
were as incomprehensible to us, as totally unimaginable, as the 
butterfly must be to the caterpillar. Perhaps the dead had been 
having their own technological revolution, and were learning to 
break through the limits of their bourne. (Three) 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


23. SOULS IN CONFUSION 

In The Conversation, the experience of dying is characterized as one 
of “confusion” as in this discussion of the Holocaust: 

But if there had been no gas chambers, would there then have been 
none of this grandeur? 

They made of their suffering, with great effort, what one who 
attains the heart of a child may easily make of the drift of a cloud 
or the peaceful ringing of a bell upon a summer evening. And 
only a few. Most died in agony and confusion, all for nothing. It 
is easier to reach ecstasy through joy than through suffering. (43) 

In Transformation, Strieber was already discussing the experience of 
dying in terms of “confusion”: 

In a reality made of energy, thoughts may literally be things. 

I suspect that in such reality a person who dies without a way 
is lost, unable to surmount the confusion that his own soul is 
creating around him. ( Trans 97) 

24. UNBEARABLE TRUTH AFTER DEATH 

Following what for many is a passage into a post-life situation 
marked by confusion, according to the Master of the Key, the dead are 
forced to confront themselves and the unmitigated truth of their lives: 

What do these souls do while waiting? 

They experience peace, some of them, only coming slowly into 
an awareness of what they need to continue on. Others are frantic, 
because of the nature of their lives. There can be great anguish, 
as loved ones are witnessed in the nakedness and, often, the 
horror of their own lives. There can be obsession, and the lusts of 
life can be endlessly indulged but never satisfied, for the physical 
world can be seen but not touched by these beings. However, 
there is also kindness among them. In a world where there are 
no secrets, only truth, the compassion of one for another is very 
great. (20) 

There are no “secrets” in the afterlife, and those still living are 


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“witnessed in the nakedness” of their lives by the dead. Thus the ‘lives’ 
of the dead are very difficult: they are forced to confront the brutal truth 
about themselves and they are perpetual voyeurs of the living including 
their own loved ones. 

These exact aspects of the experience of the dead were being ex- 
plored by Strieber as early as Transformation: 

The fire of hell may be kindled by seeing oneself as one really 
is. And heaven’s balm emerges if there is reconciliation. (202) 

If this is all true, it means that we are not alone within our- 
selves, and that all our secrets are available for this other world 
to see. That we know this instinctively might be why we deny it 
consciously. For most of us it would be very hard to bear. (200) 

25. TAPESTRY OF MEMORY, EVERYTHING IS RETAINED 

As discussed in the section on Gurdjieff-Ouspensky, the basic reason 
why according to the Master of the Key the dead must confront the truth 
about their lives is that every detail of the past is fully present in the 
afterlife, that is, outside of time. According to Ouspensky, the past is not 
a present that has ceased to exist, but instead fully exists though outside 
of view. Strieber adopts this notion, and thus for the Master of the Key, 
“every detail” of every life ever lived is retained. 

Isn’t this going to heaven? 

There is a some ecstasy, but it is not complete. When another 
elemental body forms that fits the pattern of that particular frag- 
ment, it will return to the physical in search of more sensation. 

Or, if one never does, its unfulfilled desires will remain forever 
as a part of the tapestry of memory. (17) 

You describe our historical effort to know God as a work of art. What 
do you mean? 

You are weaving a tapestry of living memories. This is what the 
body of man is — a great weave of shimmering, living cloth. It is 
full of all the hopes, failures, fears and attainments of the ages. 

Every detail is there, every step taken by every foot upon every 
path, not just the acts of Buddha or Christ or the great leaders. 

Nothing has been forgotten, not the single drawing of a single 


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breath. All lives are all completely present in this work of art. (43) 

This Ouspenskian understanding of time viewed in terms of the 
afterlife was already being explored by Strieber in Transformation: 

I suspect that every instant of life literally freezes in memory, 
ready to play its part later in a rigorous self-examination that 
follows death. (201) 

In Breakthrough, Strieber uses the same metaphor of the tapestry 
multiple times, also calling it a “work of art”: 

As the shock of the moment wore off, such an unimaginable 
vastness of detail flooded me that I could not keep up with it. I 
felt then that every single instant, every single perception, no 
matter how tiny, still existed in the extraordinary weave of souls 
that surrounds the earth. The least movement took me flowing 
down the streets of a life, the cries, the sweat, the struggle. The 
tiny journey I had made into past time now seemed almost su- 
perfluous. 

It wasn’t penultimate moments, mostly. For the most part it 
was an immense, incredibly alive tapestry of small living de- 
tails — the gleam of light upon a child’s hair, a pencil falling, a 
man burning leaves, children leaping back and forth across a 
stick, the cry of a boy who had found a comb, the spiking sting of 
a bullet’s penetration. [...] 

I cannot put into words how this looked, except to say that 
there was a sort of rueful, poignant dimming here and there in 
the living tapestry, as if the souls not there will be missing — and 
missed — forever. Even so, the light of man shone bright, but 
the places of the souls lost to the tapestry of heaven are like the 
skeletons of leaves. [...] 

You find that your soul is being etched deeply by every tiniest 
act, that you are a kind of work of art, your own essential cre- 
ation: the way your soul looks is how you have lived. It is this that 
we live for, to add the beauty of our years to the tapestry, and go 
back and work again if it is not done, to transform the little chip 
of stone that is oneself into something that can fly. (ch 14) 

The metaphor of the tapestry visible from outside of time was also 


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being used by Strieber in his novella The Open Doors: 

City of God, Garden of God: not a physical place, really, but 
one outside the nature of time. The earth, he saw now, was not 
a globe at all: the energy of time was what rounded it and set it 
on its perfect traverse of the sky. In reality the world was an im- 
mense tapestry, its leading edge being woven by the busy worms 
of life. Yes, a tapestry in the palace of God’s mind [...] 

26. MANKIND OUTSIDE OF TIME 

While the metaphor of a tapestry provides a visual image for the 
collective experience of Mankind as seen from “outside of time”, the 
Master of the Key has the Ouspenskian understanding of events appear- 
ing as geometrical objects: 

From outside of time, man’s effort to know God appears as a 
single form [...] (42) 

In the discussion of the ‘fall of man’, the Master of the Key invokes 
it again: 


There seems to be something very extraordinary hidden in what 
you’re saying. You’re saying that the fail of mankind was the emergence 
of life on earth. Am I right P 

You are, but that is a three-dimensional view, and thus limited 
by the limits of three-dimensional vision. Remember the analogy 
of how the two-dimensional being sees a solid object. As a ball 
passes through the flat plane on which such a being would be 
confined, it would not see the real shape, or even be able to con- 
ceive of it. By definition, a two-dimensional being cannot look up, 
for then it would see into the third dimension, which is impossi- 
ble for it to do. What it would see, always looking straight ahead, 
would be a dot that would grow into a line, then slowly contract 
again into a dot and disappear. It would never understand the 
true nature of the ball, because its two-dimensional mind cannot 
contain the concept of a solid object. (50) 

The Master of the Key goes on to say: 


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The emergence of life on earth and the fall of man are the same, 
in two ways. First, outside of time, all events are one, so they 
happen simultaneously. Not that they have happened, but that 
they are always happening. (50) 

The notion that mankind can be viewed from “outside of time” as a 
“single form” was already being explored by Strieber in The Secret School. 
First, there is the Ouspenskian view that time is an “aspect of shape”: 

As we accelerated out of the temple and the sky above it, and 
beyond time, I began to see the world in a very different way. 

Time began to be added to everything as a new aspect of shape, 
with the result that things became long, reaching up out of the 
core of the Earth in enormously complex lines that emerged from 
a deep glow at the center of the planet. ( TSS 128) 

Second, like the Master of the Key, Strieber was imagining the his- 
tory of mankind as a “single form”: 

An interesting thing that I have discovered is that there are 
apparently images of us that exist outside of time — time forms, 
if you will — whose shapes contain revelations about us that 
are beyond our normal intellectual vision. The largest of these 
that I have seen appears to span the entirety of consciousness, 
including both the distant past and the far future. I cannot point 
to a specific experience during which the vision emerged into my 
mind. As I worked on remembering the secret school, it slowly 
came into focus. (TSS 227-8) 

Strieber goes on to describe this form “outside the time stream” 
visually: 


It is a view of the progress of man seen entirely from outside 
the time stream. It appears in my mind’s eye as an enormous 
object hanging in a blue space. The space itself is conscious, 
ecstatically so. It is as if the blue space is the mind of God and the 
glowing object the idea of man. 

It consists of a shining dark globe at one end and a bright, sun- 
like one at the other. Between them is a huge, spiraling stream 
that starts out dead, dark black and glows brighter and brighter 


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until it explodes into the sun-like globe. 

As I understand this vision, the dark globe is the past civili- 
zation that I have glimpsed, the spiraling fountain is mankind 
moving through the chaos we call history, and the bright globe is 
what we will shortly become. ( TSS 228) 

27. BALL PASSING THROUGH A PLANE 

As shown earlier in The Missing Gurdjieff, an important thought-ex- 
periment presented in The Conversation likely came to Strieber from 
Ouspensky, though it is traceable back to Hinton. 1421 Ouspensky’s concern 
with dimensionality, and the argument by analogy about the limits on 
what human beings are able to perceive appears in modified form in The 
Conversation: 

[...] Am I right? 

You are, but that is a three-dimensional view, and thus limited 
by the limits of three-dimensional vision. Remember the analogy 
of how the two-dimensional being sees a solid object. As a ball 
passes through the flat plane on which such a being would be 
confined, it would not see the real shape, or even be able to con- 
ceive of it. By definition, a two-dimensional being cannot look up, 
for then it would see into the third dimension, which is impossi- 
ble for it to do. What it would see, always looking straight ahead, 
would be a dot that would grow into a line, then slowly contract 
again into a dot and disappear. It would never understand the 
true nature of the ball, because its two-dimensional mind cannot 
contain the concept of a solid object. (50) 

In a 1994 exchange on a CompuServe forum, some four years or so 
before his ‘true encounter’, Strieber uses the same thought- experiment 
to account for the difficulty in describing the ‘visitors’: 1431 

However, I do know why this is. It is because they possess a 
dimension of mind that enables them to address physical reality 
as a plastic, and enables them to see it from outside of time. 

Their message is actually quite clear: we can reach this also. The 
reason that I cannot articulate what they are is the same one 
that would prevent a two dimensional creature — the proverbial 
flatlander — from describing a solid object except in terms of the 


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lines it presented as it moved through his plane. 

Strieber uses the analogy again in 1997’s The Communion Letters: 

Indeed, the whole folklore of alien encounter as it presently 
exists seems more like a two-dimensional creature’s description 
of a ball passing through his flat world: he sees only an undu- 
lating line. The description is correct, but does not even begin to 
accurately explain the reality of the ball. Indeed, it can’t, because 
a two-dimensional creature cannot conceive of a three-dimen- 
sional object. (TCL 10) 

28. CHANGE ONLY POSSIBLE WITHIN THE TIME STREAM 

One of the basic differences between the living and the dead, accord- 
ing to the Master of the Key, is that change is possible for the living on 
account of their being within the “time stream”, while the dead remain 
more or less outside of time: 

Nobody can change except inside the stream of time. Outside 
of it nothing changes. Nothing can. We enter the time stream 
by inserting our energetic bodies into elemental bodies on this 
planet of which we were born. (33) 

Because of the use of such technology, elemental bodies 
extended their perception outside of the time stream, with the 
result that the school of the earth ceased to work as a place of 
change. Who knows the truth, cannot find their weakness, and 
that is your aim on earth. (53) 

And we lost access to the science of God— your science? 

The part of your brain that enables you to utilize electrons 
without drawing them into the particulate state was turned off. 

You became time-bound. You went to sleep, sinking into the time 
stream, which is where you remain trapped. (56) 

One does not have to look far to find the same concept in Strieber’s 
earlier work. In The Secret School, for example, Strieber wrote: 

What this lesson involved was a completely new way of being 


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aware of something that I suspect is commonplace to all of us, 
but intentionally ignored. We stay away from it because it is dan- 
gerous to the sense of spontaneity that living inside time offers, 
which we use to create change in ourselves. ( TSS 133) 

Here we find not only “living inside time” linked to “spontaneity” 
and “change”, but the assertion that things which threaten this ability 
are found to be “dangerous” on some deep level and are avoided. Com- 
pare to the Master of the Key saying: 

Do energetic beings appear in the physical world ? 

An example would be the much maligned crop circles. These 
are two dimensional portraits of these beings, self-created. They 
are trying to introduce themselves. 

U 

Why doesn’t anybody believe in them? 

They are a manifestation of the rising of the dead and thus the 
end of the time during which souls can change. For those souls 
who are yet incomplete, this is terrifying, because they fear two 
things: first, that this means that it’s too late for them; second, 
that they will, if they conjoin the world of the dead, also see as 
the dead see, and thus become unable to change even if the earth 
remains able to support elemental bodies. So they pretend that 
it’s all false. There are many other reasons to conceal such things, 
but these are the strongest. (41) 

Strieber talks about denial again in The Secret School, this time in 
connection with prophecy, and makes the same argument the Master of 
the Key makes as to why the reality of crop circles is denied: 

Over history, we have often tried to use the tool of prophecy 
[...] In recent years, this wonderful tool has been debased into 
sensationalistic trash. We have done this for the same reason 
that we deny the existence of any and all gateways into the more 
potent levels of reality: to protect the precious ignorance that 
gives life the zest and surprise, the wonder and horror, that are 
capable of changing our souls. (TSS 191-2) 

Strieber talks at great length about the “time stream”, spontaneity 
conferring the possibility of change, and so on at around the time of The 


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Secret School. In a 1997 interview with Sean Casteel, for example, one 
finds the following: 1441 

The other two journeys represent a movement into the earth’s 
future and a movement into my own past in Rome. These both in- 
volved an extension of consciousness outside of the time stream, 
and then a return to the time stream at different points. [...] And 
this movement and leaving of the time stream is a very ancient, 
magical, shamanic process where the soul comes to draw into 
consciousness its memories of all the times it has spent in life 
and its vision of its own future. 

U 

What we have to learn to do — and this as much an inner move- 
ment as an artifact of some potential technology — is to learn 
to move out of the time stream so that we can examine it more 
carefully and come to understand its real meaning. 

29. GOING INTO THE LIGHT 

Bell: A very good friend of mine lives in Las Vegas. His name is 
John Lear. And I’ve interviewed and known John over the years. 

He once told me something on a talk show, ahm, that he said you 
had told him. That I have never forgotten and never been able to 
get over. He said, ‘When you die, don’t go to the light. It’s a trick. 

Go to the dark.’ And — 

Strieber: I said that? 

Bell: He said that you had said that to him. And possibly you’ve 
forgotten it or possibly it was never said, but I want — 

Strieber: Well, who knows? I mean I’ve said a lot of things in 
this lifetime. I wouldn’t say I haven’t said that. But at the same 
time, I don’t know quite what the context of it would have been. I 
don’t remember the conversation. I had some conversations with 
John though so it’s possible, I guess . 1451 

Whatever Strieber’s trouble recalling in 1995 whether the idea be- 
longed to him, it certainly belonged to the Master of the Key in 2001. 
Consistent with the idea that God wants ‘companions’ and the notion 
that in a Gurdjieffian way one should seek to maintain oneself after 
death to that end, the Master of the Key says: 


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So the light is not our friend? 

The light is the fate of sleeping man. Awakened man makes his 
own light, as part of the radiant choir who sing forever the song 
of God, which is the word. ( 18 ) 

Compare this with what Strieber had to say in his audio commen- 
taries on The Key: 

I always had the feeling that there was something about going 
into the light that was a kind of defeat. 1461 

And at that point I thought immediately of going into the light. 

And this is what we’re all now believe we’re supposed to do after 
death. And I’ve always wondered about that. And I’ve wondered 
whether or not that was really what we were looking for. t47] 

30. DRINKING THE WHITE LIQUID 

Wilfred Stone, the main character of Strieber’s 1989 novel Majestic, 
bears more than a few similarities with Strieber himself. In Chapter 25, 
part of Stone’s ongoing first-person narrative in the novel, Stone relates: 

I screamed and screamed and screamed and they cooed and 
finally a voice spoke. It was like a machine talking. “What can we 
do to help you stop screaming?” 

In Communion Strieber wrote that the ‘visitors’ asked him the same 
question: 

One of them, I think it was the one I had identified earlier as 
the woman, said, “What can we do to help you stop screaming?” 

This voice was remarkable. It was definitely aural, that is to say, I 
heard it rather than sensed it. It had a subtly electronic tone to it, 
the accents flat and startlingly Midwestern. (One) 

Likewise in Chapter 15 of Majestic we find: 

“Why do you call on your gods? We’re the only ones here.” The 
voice was swift and breathless and tough and far from human. 


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In a Journal dated August 25, 2000, Strieber wrote: 

It is why the visitors once said to me in a time of great distress, 

“why do you call on your gods? It’s only us.” At the time, it seemed 
a cruel, even devastating thing to say, a demonic lie. But I see it 
now for what it really was: an invitation for us to take our place 
in God — to surrender ourselves to consciousness. 1481 

The similarities between Stone and Strieber were enough that they 
caused a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews to complain: 

Overlaid on [the main] story, though, is another — a hazy rehash 
of the psychospiritual events recounted in Strieber’s Communion 
and Transformation, with Stone in the Strieber role: of how Stone 
had been monitored by ‘the visitors’ since childhood; of how, 
after Roswell, they tested his soul — for ‘[a man] sees in those 
dark angelic eyes a reflection of what he truly is’ — and found it 
wanting. 1491 

The blurring of the lines between fictional Stone and less fictional 
Strieber also occurs in an important way with respect to The Key. As 
early as his first Journal after the ‘true encounter’, July 19, 1998, Strieber 
was writing about being forced to drink a white liquid: 

Just before he left, the man in Toronto had me drink a fluid. He 
reminded me that I had taken this same drink as a child. He said 
that it contained the structures of my life, up until that night. He 
was here to give me the second cup, which would contain every- 
thing from June 6 until my death. He told me when and how I am 
to die, but he also said, “if you value your sanity, you will never 
utter this.” I can certainly see that. But I sense the truth of what 
he said, and I think that I have gained the peace of a dying man. 

The detail was retained in more or less the same form in the later 
published versions of The Key. But Strieber’s character Wilfred Stone was 
also forced to drink a white liquid in the 1989 novel: 

She was holding out what looked like a plain, ordinary glass of 
milk. “You’re thirsty, you need a drink.” 

She was absolutely right. I took it and swallowed two huge gulps 


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before I realized that it was incredibly bitter, so bitter my head 
was splitting. I spat milky spray but she grabbed the glass, before 
I threw it down. [...] 

I choked and struggled but she was like a creature of steel, not 
a living body. “You will forget,” she said, “until the latter days of 
your life.” [...] 

The milk of forgetfulness made the room turn slowly round and 
round. The last thing I saw clearly as I collapsed was that dress. In 
the flickering light it became a field of yellow primroses, (ch 28 ) 

In the Afterword to the Tarcher, Strieber also referred to the white 
liquid as the milk of nepenthe: 

Then I also remembered that, as he left, he’d asked me to drink 
a white liquid that he’d had in one of the glasses from the bath- 
room. But hadn’t I refused? Surely I had. 

Then I thought of the Milk of Nepenthe, the drug that was 
mythically given to people who had visited the gods, in order that 
they would not suffer the anguish of remembering the pleasures 
of heaven when they had to return to mortal life. 

I had not wanted to drink it, but I hadn’t refused. So this must 
have been a dream. In real life, I would never have drunk some- 
thing like that. 

It is significant that Strieber is being asked to drink something one 
of his fictional characters already had to drink — a white liquid affecting 
memory. But one can see in Strieber’s Journal and later in The Key the 
highly self-serving aspect that characterizes so much of the ‘true en- 
counter’. While the white liquid in Majestic is clearly the mythic milk of 
nepenthe designed to make one forget, somehow in Strieber’s case the 
white liquid in the ‘true encounter’ is meant to do the opposite, to make 
him remember : 1501 it restores to him the ‘structures’ of his life according 
to his Journal, and certainly with the transcription of The Conversation 
we are presented with what can only be regarded as a superhuman feat 
of recollection. The same contradictory self-serving turn is seen with 
Strieber’s implant, which according to the Tarcher uniquely protects 
Strieber from mind control, despite the wide suspicion by members of 
the UFO culture that implants may be mind control devices. 


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31. ‘ALREADY’ SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT FOR OTHER REALITIES 

For some time prior to the ‘true encounter’ Strieber was interested 
in using scientific equipment to communicate with “conscious energy”, 
and even urged the scientific community to develop equipment and 
techniques for that purpose as in this 1997 interview: 

Just as in the past, when we devised a long series of scien- 
tific instruments, beginning way back in the classical period 
when we developed geometry and became able to do things like 
measure the circumference of the earth and the development of 
the telescope. To the development of the radio receiver and the 
understanding of how to transmit messages over the radio. To 
the development of so many other devices that detect different 
levels of energy, magnetism, gravity, ultraviolet and higher levels 
of light. Microwaves. Extra low frequency, high frequency, etc. 
and so forth. We need to be able to determine whether or not, on 
some level, there is an additional energy to measure. And learn 
to measure to that. I think that probably what we’re going to find 
is there is such an energy, and that it’s going to be the first of 
those energies that’s alive that we’ve measured. And that we’re 
going to find that life exists in an entirely energetic format. And 
that we’re going to be able to measure this and understand it 
and interact with it objectively in the future. That would be my 
hope. 1511 


But in one passage in The Conversation, the Master of the Key suggests 
that the equipment needed for such otherworldly contact was already 
available: 

But the science of the soul is just another science. There is 
no supernatural, only physics. But the physics and electronics 
involved in communicating with living energy is very subtle. 
Nothing, however, that you are not capable of now. The devices 
needed to make your beginning are already sold in stores. (40) 

This might be taken to conflict with Strieber’s view, except that by 
1998 his view had evolved. In this interview given with Sean Casteel in 
1998 while promoting Confirmation (suggesting it took place before the 
‘true encounter’), Strieber had the following to say: 


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Well, what I want to add is that the scientific community can 
address this in a rational way. There are already instruments and 
techniques that would allow us to deal with this scientifically at 
every level and answer some of the questions that now surround 

it. [ 52 ] 


32. STILL USING ‘JETS' 

The Master of the Key’s concern with our level of technology leads 
him to make a rather unusual remark about “jets” early in the dialogue: 

Why has the Holocaust prevented us from leaving the planet ? 

The Holocaust reduced the intelligence of the human species by 
killing too many of its most intellectually competent members. 

It is why you are still using jets seventy-five years after their 
invention. [...] (13) 

The reference to “jets” seems somewhat colloquial and out of place. 
One might expect instead mention of “jet engines” or “propulsion” more 
generally. But here is Strieber making the same observation about “jets” 
in a 1998 interview just months before the ‘true encounter’: 

[—37:05] If you look at the hidden history of the development of 
propulsion devices, and you stop and think that we’re still flying 
around in jets, maybe we are dangerous and maybe we’re being 
held back. [53) 

33. NO SUPERNATURAL ONLY NATURAL WORLD 

One of the Master of the Key’s primary positions is that there is no 
supernatural in the traditional sense, only phenomena not yet under- 
stood by science: 

The veil between the worlds can fall. The undiscovered country 
can become your backyard. 

But how can we do this? 

By first realizing that you are not cut off. There is no supernat- 
ural. There is only the natural world, and you have access to all of 
it. Souls are part of nature. (15) 


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Of course, this radical statement — that “[tjhere is only the natural 
world” — is perfectly consistent with the expansive naturalistic view 
that has been present in Strieber’s writing from his earliest fiction. 
Strieber’s first novels, after all, featured creatures traditionally under- 
stood as supernatural, such as vampires and werewolves, existing in 
natural relation to human beings as predators to prey. 

In The Conversation, Strieber is more concerned with providing scien- 
tific explanations of the soul, the afterlife, psychic ability and so on, and 
so the notion of predation is confined to elliptical comments about souls 
being harvested. But the expanded natural world of souls, ghosts, and 
so on that the Master of the Key describes was also evident in Strieber’s 
work. In Breakthrough (1995) Strieber was already calling for the collapse 
of the distinction between the natural and the supernatural just like the 
Master of the Key above: 

The world is not divided into the physical and the supernatural 
at all; it is simply that the physical is much larger, more various, 
and richer in content than we have dared to dream, (ch 1) 

In an interview given to Sean Casteel at the time of The Secret School, 
Strieber took the same view: 1541 

It’s just that these tools don’t seem physical now only because 
we don’t understand the energies. There is a continuum from 
the very simplest expression of energy to the very highest and 
the most extraordinary and most numinous expression of energy. 

And there is no nonphysical world at all. The spiritual world, as 
we call it, is also part of the physical world. It’s simply a part 
that we don’t yet understand. So, that’s how the two fit together. 

I don’t recognize a difference between physical sightings and 
metaphysical encounters because there is no difference. One we 
understand, one we don’t. That’s the only thing that’s different. 

And in another interview with Casteel, this time promoting The 
Communion Letters in 1997, a year before the ‘true encounter’: 1551 

I think that there exists the possibility to scientifically discover 
whether or not things like the soul exist. In other words, to bring 
the so-called supernatural and paranormal phenomena into the 
realm of reality. I don’t really believe in the paranormal or the 


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supernatural. I think there is only a physical world, some parts of 
which we can understand and perceive, other parts of which we 
cannot understand and perceive. 

34. BARRIER BETWEEN LIVING AND DEAD WILL FALL 

There is an evolutionary dimension to mankind’s growing awareness 
of the true scope of the natural world. According to the Master of the 
Key: 


Wait for what? 

To understand that, you must first understand that the living 
and the dead share the same world. Your dead are not off some- 
where in space. Their lives and beings are intertwined with yours. 

They see all that passes here, but can only affect it indirectly, if 
they can make themselves heard in the minds of the living. How- 
ever, you the living are changing now. As this change proceeds, 
you are better and better able to feel the presence of your dead. 

You will find your dead in the immediate surroundings of their 
lives, for the most part, clinging to what they can of their mem- 
ories, attempting to preserve their selves despite the magnetic 
attraction of what would envelop them. ( 18 ) 

Indeed, it is one of the features of ‘the age’ that the lives of the living 
and the dead will come to inhabit the same space. Or as the Master of 
the Key says: 

The veil between the worlds can fall. The undiscovered country 
can become your backyard. ( 15 ) 

Of course, Strieber was advocating for this notion before the ‘true 
encounter’ using very similar language. In Breakthrough, Strieber wrote 
that the “veil between the worlds is growing thin” (ch 14). In The Secret 
School, Strieber prophesied that “the barrier between the living and the 
dead will collapse” (233). 

35. CONSUMER SOCIETY 

In The Conversation, the Master of the Key reveals that a particular 
destructive mechanism will be used to reduce mankind to almost noth- 


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ing and to return it to the forest: the “consumer society”. 

What you refer to as ‘the consumer society’ is actually a mech- 
anism designed to ensure your proper transition from Pisces to 
Aquarius. Each transition has such a mechanism. The last one, 
transferring you from Aires to Pisces, was the idea of the risen 
man. This idea, and the ethics of the gospel, gave you a structure 
upon which could be built a new society. But that time is past. 

The society has outlived its usefulness. It’s time for something 
new. This is why the present mechanism is destructive, not 
constructive. 

The Consumer Society is destroying the planet. And that’s intention- 
al? 

After the suffering you are about to endure, mankind will never 
again lust after material wealth. You are about to suffocate in 
your own garbage. (57) 

It is perhaps no coincidence that the “consumer society” was a spe- 
cial cause of concern for Strieber a year before his ‘true encounter’. In 
January 1997, Strieber did a two-part interview with Jeff Rense in which 
the “consumer society” came up in each part, the term used by Strieber 
alone both times. First: 

[-28:00] The consumer society has corrupted childhood to a 
great degree. Childhood has been under assault. Really since the 
late ’fifties. We first discovered the idea of the teenager at about 
1952 or ’53. And then we began to exploit the teenager in the 
mid ’fifties, early-sixties. And that methodology brought in a lot 
of money. And it’s been extended down into childhood. So that 
now, and this is why younger and younger kids act like teenagers, 
and teenagers remain childlike for a much longer time. Because 
they’re in a sense — they’re trapped. They’re in a cocoon. Where 
it feels like they are living a life. But what they are actually doing 
is being exploited. 

And later in the second part: 

[-26:40] I think it was an interesting Christmas in that it sort of, 

I think, maybe there was a kind of sea change. Because you know 
there was much less bought this Christmas than there is most 


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Christmases. And I think that people are beginning to feel a little 
bit as if the consumer society simply isn’t enough, and that that 
is running a lot deeper in the culture than we realize. 

36. FACTS VERSUS TRUTH 

An unusual distinction appear in The Conversation between facts 
and truth, two things normally associated but set in opposition to one 
another by Strieber. The distinction is important enough that it appears 
in The Conversation twice: 

There are no facts, only truths. (39) 

You look for facts in a place where there is only truth. (42) 

Interestingly, the same distinction appears in Strieber’s early novel 
The Hunger, in which “machines” (again, Gurdjieffian vocabulary) for 
dealing only in facts therefore deal in untruth: 

Machines only gather facts and must therefore lie. (ch 10) 

37. LOVING YOUR ENEMY AND THE BATTLE WON 

As noted previously, the Master of the Key has a very broad-minded 
view of the value of “the darkness” and one’s enemies: 

Remember that the air is never so sweet, nor thy wife so comely, 
nor thy child so beautiful, as after the battle won. We depend 
upon our enemy for the sweetness of our lives. Love your enemy, 
for he is your best friend. Without the darkness, you would never 
know the glory of the firmament. (55) 

Similar language appears in The Secret School: 

Without the terror, though, none of the rewards would come. 

There would be none of the sweetness, not to say the glory, of 
victory. [...] 

So also does Christ’s admonition to love one’s enemy. There 
is an extraordinary benefit: the air after a battle won is sweet 
indeed. (TSS 83) 


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And as previously noted, we have the same language in Strieber’s 
earlier work Breakthrough: 

I saw the true meaning of “love thine enemies,” that the enemy 
makes the victory sweet as certainly as the light depends on the 
darkness to be seen. If there was no evil, good would be invisible 
[...] (ch 12) 

This notion of loving your enemies because they offer the experience 
of victory was swirling in Strieber’s mind even at the time of his early 
novel The Hunger: 

Love your enemy, her father used to say, for without him you 
would never taste the flavor of victory, (ch 4) 

38. ‘DESTRUCTION’ OF THE JEWS 

The Master of the Key gives the following explanation in The Conver- 
sation of the Holocaust: 

This is because of the Holocaust. The destruction of six million 
may well lead to the destruction of six billion. [...] 

The Holocaust was triggered when economic disorder com- 
bined among the Germans with a feeling of being trapped due to 
overpopulation. The resultant explosion drove the German tribe 
to lash out against other tribes, especially the one that lived in its 
midst. Unfortunately, they murdered the bearers of the intellec- 
tually strongest genes possessed by your species. (13) 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Strieber also gave an explanation for the 
Holocaust in his 1986 story Pain. In both cases, the word “destruction” 
is used to describe the extermination of the Jews: 

The Nazi destruction of the Jews was a particularly vicious 
exception to this rule: Hitler killed the Jews to consolidate his 
power. They owned too much of the German economy, and 
nothing he did would ever make them trust him. They formed a 
certain reservoir of opposition and so had to be destroyed. 

While the two explanations as to why the Holocaust occurred have 


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different concerns, they show Strieber was used to setting himself the 
task of forming a concise historical explanation for the “destruction” of 
the Jews. 

39. INSIDE THE GAS CHAMBER 

The Master of the Key gives a description of an actual experience 
inside the gas chambers of the Holocaust: 

The outsider notices the glimmer of sunlight upon the spoon, 
the sensation of the food in the mouth, for he is using life to gain 
impressions. The participant only eats. So also, the outsider sees 
the packed bodies around him, he smells the sweat and the urine, 
he hears the soft clatter of the crystals with absolute objective 
calm, and inhales the searing torment of the gas without being 
in any way identified with the injustice or the cruelty or the terror 
all around him. But the participant screams, it suffers the agony 
of the elemental body, and knows the greatest terror man has 
ever known, which was experienced in the dark gas chambers of 
the Holocaust. (29) 

It is a sudden, moving description because of the suggestion in the 
text that the Master of the Key was there experiencing the “soft clatter 
of the crystals”: 

Are you dead ? 

Yes. 

And did you die a Jew in the camps? 

I died with each of them and all of them. [...] (29) 

But in his 1997 novella, The Open Doors, Strieber wrote a similar 
description that likewise referred to the sound of the “crystals” — this 
time their “tinkling fall”: 

We work for God, we who are too elegant of mind to bear God — 
we work for a girl of twelve with corn gold hair and lips like 
Sharon’s roses, who in the middle years of your life, darling Adolf, 
stood naked, her cornish hair crawling with three stages of the 
lives of the louse, and listened in the dark to the tinkling fall of 
the crystals and then to the high wide loud shrieks of eight hun- 


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dred other children with corn gold hair and lips of Sharon, and 
tasted of the gas, and thought in her terror and last humiliating 
confusion that the silver ‘Gott Mitt Uns’ beltbuckle of the gentle 
man who had ushered her in was a talisman of deliverance. 

40. THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE 

In The Conversation, the ‘Whitley’ character is concerned about the 
brutality of alien abductions, and that it may be their primary meaning: 

Are there such things as alien abductions? 

As you grow in fourth mind, you see more. 

Many of these encounters are brutal. 

The kitten is terrified of the veterinarian. To subdue the little 
creature, violence is unavoidable. 

But the slaughterhouse is also brutal. 

Yours is not the destiny of the steer. ( 22 ) 

Much later in the text, however, the Master of the Key again speaks 
of human beings and whether they are like “cattle”: 

That’s horrifying. 

Human souls have been harvested for this purpose for thou- 
sands of years. 

By whom? 

By whomsoever wishes to and can. Until mankind establishes 
his own place in the cosmos, there will always be those who use 
you like cattle. (66) 

In the first passage, Strieber gets the reassuring answer that “[y]ours 
is not the destiny of the steer”. Thus the brutality of abductions is not 
an end unto itself, and “slaughterhouse” not a codeword for the basic 
meaning of human life in relation to these other, more powerful beings. 
In the later passage, the Master of the Key nevertheless concedes that in 
some cases human beings are treated like “cattle”. 

The question is obviously of great interest to Strieber — and was so 
long before his ‘true encounter’. Strieber’s 1986 story, Pain, reflects a 
previous stage of development in Strieber’s thinking. A story that begins 
with a bizarre digression into UFO-related questions, Pain contemplates 
whether suffering is not the whole purpose to human life on account of 


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higher beings who feed off of that suffering and use humans in the way 
a human farmer uses livestock: 

Because it knows that this hidden civilization feeds on us, the 
government does everything possible to hide reality. It does not 
want us to know that our lives, our culture, our very history 
has been designed for the purpose of causing us suffering, and 
that there is nothing whatsoever that any of us can do to relieve 
ourselves of this burden. 

U 

The obvious conclusion is that they use us for their own reasons, 
gaining something we do not understand from our suffering and 
our slaughter, gaining strength perhaps, or pleasure, or maybe 
even the fundamental energy of their civilization. As the burning 
of oil fuels human civilization, moving planes and cars, providing 
electricity and heat, so also the carnage of human beings might 
provide this invisible higher civilization with its prime energy 
source. 

In Pain, for the purposes of telling a more lurid horror story, but also 
because it reflects his genuine thinking, Strieber resigns himself to the 
fact that the earth is a slaughterhouse and that man is like a steer: 

This is a slaughterhouse, but we the victims are not gainsayed 
the blessing of a quick club to the head or the slitting of the 
throat. The greater our learning, the happier the angels. 

The concern about mankind as ‘steer’ and the ‘slaughterhouse’ sur- 
faced again in Communion: 

If they were real visitors, though, I wanted to know the ethics 
behind their assertion of their “right.” Of course, we ourselves 
barely question our rights over the other species on earth. How 
odd it was to find oneself suddenly under the very power that one 
so easily assumes over the animals. [...] 

I remembered when my father took me to a slaughterhouse in 
Fort Worth, and I heard the rumble of panic and saw the bucking 
backs of the steers and the creamy whites of their eyes. 

I smelled the slick of manure and urine and blood, and heard 
the steady crunching of the blows and the blare of the saws. [...] 


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Try as I might, I simply did not have the feeling that the visi- 
tors were applying the same cold ethic to their relationship with 
us as we did to ours with the animals. There was something of 
that in it though, very definitely. I had been captured like a wild 
animal on December 26, rendered helpless and dragged out of my 
den into the night. 

Nor did I feel that they were simply studying me. Not at all. 

They had changed me, done something to me. I could sense it 
clearly that night but I could not articulate it. (Three) 

41. THE WEIGHTLIFTER 

Why do they harm us so terribly ? 

The objective of resistance is to make you strong. The weight- 
lifter puts more and more weight to himself, so that he’ll be able 
to lift more and more. (37) 

The metaphor of the weightlifter is used by Strieber in an interview 
with Sean Casteel in May 1998 or before: 

Well, I know you haven’t. But the thing that makes this so 
difficult to understand is how could they seem to be hostile to us 
when they’re actually trying to help us? That’s one of the things 
that hard to understand. But it becomes very obvious if you real- 
ize that what they’re trying to do is make us strong. How do you 
make somebody strong? You make them exercise. You make them 
flex their muscles. You create, for example, questions that they 
can’t bear and that they can’t answer. That makes them strong. 

But just handing them starship plans, like they do in the movie 
“Contact,” that makes us weak. That hurts us. That’s hostile. 1561 

42. QUESTIONS NEITHER BORNE NOR ANSWERED 

The notion that contact with the visitors produces questions that can 
neither be borne nor answered has been advocated by Strieber repeatedly 
over the years. In the pre-May 1998 Casteel interview, Strieber says for 
example: 


How do you make somebody strong? You make them exercise. 
You make them flex their muscles. You create, for example, ques- 


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tions that they can’t bear and that they can’t answer . 1571 

In a May 1998 ‘live chat’ while promoting his book Confirmation, 
Strieber wrote: 

We are facing questions that we cannot bear to leave unan- 
swered, but also that we do not have enough information to 
answer properly. No matter the motives of those who have given 
us these questions, the questions themselves are richly evolu- 
tionary. 1581 

The Master of the Key, of course, agrees with Strieber’s thinking: 

What form does this help take ? 

It is a process of creating questions that can neither be borne 
nor answered. You know this. ( 34 ) 

43. ‘MAKE NO MISTAKE’ 

The Master of the Key uses expressions of emphasis that Strieber 
himself uses. In the following Tarcher AK, the phrase “[m]ake no mis- 
take” appears, though it is edited out in the Walker & Collier: 

We learn from our mistakes. But those who give themselves to 
evil suffer. Make no mistake. They can become so heavy that they 
sink into the earth, fust as the energetic body can enjoy extraor- 
dinary pleasure, it can suffer excruciating pain. You have in your 
body a few million nerves. But in your energetic body, every tiny 
bit of being can experience the totality of ecstasy or agony. 

Strieber also uses the same expression in The Path: 

[TJhere have been places and times when even possessing 
the Tarot was a crime punishable by public burning. Make no 
mistake: dangerous times can always come again. (Card I) 

And in a 1998 interview: 

It’s so powerful. The engine of repression is so overwhelming 
powerful and getting stronger by the day. It’s much stronger than 


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it was ten years ago, make no mistake. People aren’t as derisive 
now, but this engine of repression is really well organized in the 
media now. It’s much better than it was before. [59! 

And in a 2014 Dreamland interview: 

And make no mistake, folks. It is Saudi money and Saudi weap- 
ons behind the Isis movement. They are there. [6o] 

44. EARTH NO LONGER ABLE TO ‘SUPPORT’ YOU 

In a June 1994 CompuServe forum, Strieber had this to say: 

Absolutely. What is inevitable is that at some time soon the 
planet will become irreversibly unable to support us and there 
will be all kinds of environmental breakdowns. 1611 

In his 1995 book Breakthrough, Strieber uses the same term: 

The crisis of our species will come when our growing pop- 
ulation interrupts biospheric renewal in ways that seriously 
diminish the planet’s ability to support us. (ch 22) 

The idea that the world will soon become unable to “support us” is 
put into the mouth of the Master of the Key, who verifies it again using 
the same verb: 

This is of absolutely fundamental importance, because the 
earth will soon be unable to support you, and yet you will not be 
able to leave. (13) 

Look to the details of the transition between signs, and you 
will be able to find precisely where the earth will cease to support 
you. (58) 

45. OVERPOPULATION 

Strieber’s concerns about overpopulation were visibly on display in 
Nature’s End, his 1986 novel about worldwide environmental collapse in 
2025 due to massive human overpopulation. The hardcover subtitle to 


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the novel was “The Consequences of the Twentieth Century”. In Winter’s 
1985 Faces of Fear interview, Strieber laid most of our current problems at 
the feet of overpopulation: 

Strieber has just returned from an overseas tour promoting 
Warday, and he talks about the global reach of his fear: 

“I am afraid. ..and concerned. I am very sad. Especially because 
of our inability, as a species, to address the great problems that 
we face. Problems of overpopulation, of political and military 
pressures resulting from overpopulation, and of ecological de- 
cline, perhaps irreversible, also resulting from overpopulation. 

Our inability to face these problems with a kind of planetary 
consciousness, and, more importantly to act on them. We need 
hundred-year plans, but our governments change too much for 
there to be any plans at all. We are not conscious enough. But 
nature is saying to this species: If you want to make it, you have 
got to become more conscious. (194) 

As is clear from the above, Strieber was thinking about human evolu- 
tion and evolution of consciousness in terms of environmental pressures 
as far back as 1985. It is fully consistent with his own naturalism, the 
same naturalism the Master of the Key would promote later. 

Strieber’s view in 1985 matches the Master of the Key’s in another 
respect. According to Strieber, overpopulation was responsible for the 
twentieth century’s wars: 

“Since the middle of the nineteenth century, the human species 
has been tested by a continual growth of population that has 
gradually emerged as the central issue of existence. It is the pri- 
mary reason why the twentieth century has been afflicted with 
so many wars. [...] ( Fear 194) 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Master of the Key cites overpopulation 
as a main cause of the Second World War and the Holocaust: 

The Holocaust was triggered when economic disorder com- 
bined among the Germans with a feeling of being trapped due to 
overpopulation. The resultant explosion drove the German tribe 
to lash out against other tribes, especially the one that lived in 
its midst. (13) 


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46. EARTH A PRISON 

The Master of the Key asserts a number of times that the earth is a 
prison and that man is imprisoned on it: 

Why are you here? 

You’re chained to the ground. (12) 

The wheel of life, as it is called by the Buddhists, is your prison. 

The human soul is imprisoned? 

It is imprisoned. [...] 

Will this ever end? 

Your enemy does not want it to end. They fear you too much. 

When you see UFOs, you see prison guards. (54) 

We are in chains, just as you said. But you also said you had the key. 

This whole conversation is the key. You should bless your jailers, 
because without them you could never find your freedom. When 
you, as a species, remember why you have been imprisoned, and 
you face what you did, you will be free. (55) 

The notion appears in an early form in Communion: 

They might even want to imprison us here in our earth, or do 
worse than imprison us. (Three) 

This is because the idea of intellectually and technologically 
advanced visitors who hide their knowledge from us is threaten- 
ing and infuriating. It suggests that there is something ignoble 
about mankind, or even that we are prisoners on our planet. (Five) 

47. EVOLVE OR GO EXTINCT 

The basic premise of The Key is that mankind is going to go extinct 
in the not-too-distant future if it does not ‘surrender’ or ‘return to the 
forest’ — special terms of Strieber’s that refer simultaneously to both 
biological and spiritual evolution. The timeframe of man’s possible 
extinction is set for the next two thousand years (or ‘age’), though the 
question of whether extinction is to occur will be settled much sooner: 


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I wish to ask about the future. What is our future? 

The future of mankind is either to ascend or go extinct. The 
future of life on earth is, in either case, to evolve new intelligent 
creatures. Species of birds will become intelligent. Then, eons 
later, a species of insect. Like you, the insect species will have 
hands. They will remake the earth as you have, but never find 
the least evidence of your existence, nor will any memory of you, 
or history of you, persist in that time. They will walk the earth 
in a billion and a half years, at a time when it still has two billion 
years to live. For mankind, the matter will be decided in this 
century, however. (68) 

Not surprisingly, this was Strieber’s view before the ‘true encounter’ 
as well. In a June 1994 CompuServe forum, Strieber wrote, for example: 

I won’t stop until I die. This is the most important thing. If we 
get this right, mankind evolves. If not, we go extinct. And you’re 
looking at a very short timeframe. A century more, at most. 1621 

It is perhaps worth also noting that the excerpt from The Conversation 
above may contain a tell-tale sign of its true origins. The Master of the 
Key says that the “matter” of whether man is to ascend or go extinct 
“will be decided in this century”. Strieber’s ‘true encounter’ is said to 
have taken place in 1998. The matter of man’s fate then would have had 
to have been decided in the closing years of the twentieth century. But 
given that the period amounted to only two-and-a-half years (June 6, 
1998 to December 31, 2000), it was surely an odd way to express the fact. 
One might think “before the close of the century” or “before the turn of 
the millennium” less awkward — unless, of course, the reason why the 
Master of the Key put it in just this way was because he was speaking in 
anticipation of The Key’s publication in January 2001. The matter being 
“decided in this century” makes much more sense when referring to the 
twenty-first century. 

48. HUMANS FROM OTHER WORLDS COMING HERE 

At least as far back as June 1994, Strieber had the unusual opinion 
that human beings already lived on other worlds without our knowledge: 

I suspect that human beings from other worlds in the physical 


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universe come here. 1631 

Not surprisingly, the Master of the Key presents this as fact: 

Have any people from earth ever gone to other worlds? 

A whole world of human beings has been evolved artificially off 
the planet, and they come and go freely. 

What are you talking about? 

Human beings are being born and raised off the earth. You can 
find their habitations if you look. They live in this solar system. 

My God. How many? 

Thousands. 

What do they do here? 

They help to enforce mankind’s blindness by preventing sci- 
ence from exploring the key mysteries of the past and discovering 
a practical means of expanding into the universe. (37) 

In addition, those familiar with Strieber’s material know the tale 
of Strieber having been contacted by a man whose phone number was 
finally traced to the U. S. Department of Defense, a man who later was 
identified by Strieber from a photograph as one of the so-called Blonds 
or Nordic aliens . 1641 

Without naming the so-called Blonds or Nordics, the Master of the 
Key nevertheless makes sense of the Strieber anecdote: 

Could aliens walk among us without our noticing? 

By bending light, they can be invisible, and walk here to some 
extent, and also by using means to prevent you from looking at 
them by influencing your mind from a distance. But there are 
also those patterned on the same template as you, and they walk 
freely here. It is their job to enforce secrecy. This is the source of 
all the confusion about this. They appear, for example, to be part 
of your government, but they only use it as camouflage and as a 
source of power. Earthly institutions do not control the secrecy. 

It is controlled from a higher level. (36) 

49. BUDDHA AND THE TREE, MUHAMMAD AND THE CAVE 

Who were Mohammed and Buddha? 

Exactly who history portrays them to have been. But to under- 


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stand what happened to them, you must understand that your 
entire pantheon of deities is you. God is you. The gods are you. 

Angels and demons are you. So it was mankind who spoke to 
Mohammed in his cave. So also, to Buddha under the Bhodi Tree, 
and to Christ in the desert. (27-28) 

Pairing Buddha and the Bhodi tree and Muhammad and the cave 
is something of a favorite of Strieber’s. In a 1988 interview Strieber 
answers: 


Yep, but well look at it this way though. If you look at Paul on 
the road to Damascus; Mohammed in the cave; Buddha under the 
Bo-tree to a lesser extent [...] [6sl 

Muhammad and his cave appear again alongside Buddha and Jesus 
in Transformation: 

Whatever the visitors are, I suspect they have been responsible 
for much paranormal phenomena, ranging from the appearance 
of gods, angels, fairies, ghosts and miraculous beings to the 
landing of UFOs in the backyards of America. It may be that what 
happened to Mohammed in his cave and to Christ in Egypt, to 
Buddha in his youth and to all our great prophets and seers, was 
an exalted version of the same humble experience that causes a 
flying saucer to traverse the sky or a visitor to appear in a bed- 
room. ( Trans 54) 

50. ENTROPY, DEATH-WISH, AND SIN 

In The Conversation the concepts of entropy, mankind’s ‘death-wish’, 
and sin appear as part of the Master of the Key’s philosophical vocab- 
ulary. But they also belong to Strieber’s vocabulary before the ‘true 
encounter’. First The Conversation: 

What is evil? 

Entropy is the natural tendency of all things to disintegrate. 

Evil is the addition of intention to that process. Hate is like cold. 

It has an end. Love is like heat. It does not. (59) 

What is sin? 


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Denial of the right to thrive. (74) 

This hunger for self-destruction is the essence of your dark 
side, but we will speak of the death wish later. (47) 

My God. Can anybody do anything? 

You can write. Use your tool. But also, you will see the demon 
revealed in those who refuse to acknowledge the signs. Remem- 
ber that there is within you a powerful death-urge. But remember 
also, the cycle I speak of is a natural one. If you look into the 
fossil record, you will find evidence of it before. Human activity 
has not caused it, but only sped it up. 

What is this death wish? How does it work? 

People give up on themselves. They do it down deep inside, in 
places that the elemental mind, that is contained in the brain, 
cannot access, places that remember all lives. (69) 

In a 1988 interview with Leigh and Curtis, Strieber uses the same 
vocabulary: 1661 

This is something that has been with us ever since the concept 
of sin was invented and I think it’s a TREMENDOUS mistake. I 
think it is the deathwish; it is entropy in consciousness that the 
truth of the matter is that everything that is wrong emerges, 
not out of something that mankind has done due to weakness or 
moral lapse, but out of nature. 

Here Strieber is linking the “deathwish” with entropy in conscious- 
ness. The Master of the Key refers to a “death wish” or “death-urge” 
and defines evil in terms of entropy. The Master of the Key seems to be 
Strieber working through his concepts at a later stage of development. 

51. FOURTH LEVEL OF MIND 

The Master of the Key obliquely refers to a fourth level of mind, 
which has strong resonances with the Gurdjieff work: 

A true human being has four levels of mind. Most of you have 
only three, and perhaps a vestige of the fourth. Your destiny is 
to enter the humanity of the universe. But you may not fulfill it. 


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Are there such things as alien abductions? 

As you grow in fourth mind, you see more. ( 22 ) 

Whatever the full meaning of the concept, Strieber was invoking it in 
his 1997 novella, The Open Doors: 

She is not a demon, no she only seems such because she pos- 
sesses what he recognizes as a fourth level of mind, a level that 
sees time as a shaped charge of memories [...] 

As in The Conversation, in Strieber’s novella a “fourth level of mind” 
involves a perception of time from the outside. 

The “vestige” of the fourth mentioned by the Master of the Key refers 
to his assertions about the electromagnetic field that sends impressions 
to an area near the pineal gland — called “vestigial” in Gurdjieff-Ous- 
pensky. After the war against God, this part of the brain was “turned off” 
and man became “time-bound” (56). 

Of course, a fuller picture can be found by looking elsewhere in 
Strieber’s work. In his usual fashion, Strieber finds a kind of scientific 
basis for the Gurdjieffian concept, using a now-outmoded model called 
the ‘triune brain’. From his 2007 Journal: 

Life has been growing here on earth for hundreds of millions 
of years, and has many times evolved three-brained beings like 
us. We are the only ones, however, who have ended up with hands 
and resonating vocal chords capable of complex speech and thus 
communication. [...] 

And with the intelligence that has grown in the service of his 
needs, he can also begin to do what three-brained beings were 
meant to do, which is to live in inner harmony, to the point that 
we have the chance to see ourselves objectively, and therefore to 
affect what happens to our souls. 

By three-brained, I mean that we have a reptilian or primitive 
brain that controls our nervous system and basic impulses, a 
mammalian, or mid-brain that mediates our emotional life, and 
a human or higher brain that reasons. 

These three levels of the brain form the most energetic and 
evolutionary structure in the universe: a triad. The negative pole 
is the lowest level, because it can act only from impulse. The 
positive pole is the mid level, because it can mediate desires with 


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compassion and love. The harmonizing level is the highest level, 
the human level, which can balance the needs of the other two 
and so create a greater, harmonious whole, a fourth level of being 
that is beyond death and immortal. 1671 

This Journal entry was written well after the so-called ‘true encoun- 
ter’, so it is included only to shed light on Strieber’s thinking. In the 
Journal, Strieber tries to find an anatomical basis for the Gurdjieffian 
notion of four levels of mind, locating the first three levels in the triune 
brain structure and even arranging them in a Gurdjieffian triad, while 
locating the fourth (Gurdjieff’s so-called objective consciousness) 
beyond the material, just as he was doing in his 1997 The Open Doors. 

52. MAN IS EARTH'S MIND 

Ah. I’m lost. 

All physical being includes the same elements, and thus all 
are part of the earth and of each other. Living bodies are the 
consciousness of the planet. Man is earth’s mind. If man kills 
earth, then earth has committed suicide, because its mind has 
[not] reached the next level, which is ecstatic union with the rest 
of the universe. (30) 

In the above, unique to the Walker & Collier, there appears to be 
a confusing typo: the omission of the word “not”. It may account for 
why in the Tarcher the answer is completely rewritten. Regardless, the 
assertion that “Man is earth’s mind” was already being made by Strieber 
in this interview published in Winter’s 1985 Faces of Fear: 

I think the Green movement in Germany is tremendously im- 
portant, because it looks upon the planet as a unified single being, 

[...] the body of the earth itself as part of this one enormous, 
extraordinary creature which is striving to become conscious. It 
has created mankind, which is, of course, the consciousness it 
is seeking. You can look upon mankind as the earth’s effort to 
become conscious of itself. (202) 

The idea in the Walker & Collier passage above that it is the earth 
that is seeking “ecstatic union” with the rest of the universe through 
mankind is even suggested in the interview as Strieber continues: 


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And as we mature as a species, our consciousness will expand 
to go beyond just ourselves as individuals and then as a whole 
species, and come to include the whole planet, and eventually, 
the solar system and the galaxy and the universe. I think then we 
will truly join the world. (202) 

53. VETERINARIAN AND THE KITTEN - AND MORE 

Are there such things as alien abductions? 

As you grow in fourth mind, you see more. 

Many of these encounters are brutal. 

The kitten is terrified of the veterinarian. To subdue the little 
creature, violence is unavoidable. (22) 

From Whitley’s Journal - January 2 , 2000: 

The simple truth is that the visitors, while being quite different 
from us and treating us in ways that make us uncomfortable, 
are not hostile to us. There are no hostile aliens here at all, not 
in any form. The horror stories about them are similar in every 
respect to the stories a little kitten might tell of its visit to the 
veterinary. Also, a great number of the horror stories originate 
with an American intelligence community bent on retaining 
control of the society for the existing power structure even in 
the context of contact. 

I am in an interesting situation. The great battles of my life 
have already been fought and won. The fact that I was able to 
open my eyes and admit the visitors into my conscious mind 
was the greatest of those battles. To understand why this was 
so hard, it is necessary to understand the true nature of sin and 
the depths of human denial?what in the bible is called the fall 
of man, and to know the strength of the that which so ardently 
and patiently seeks our destruction. We must understand that 
everything we do is etched upon us permanently, and we do not 
want to face that. There is only one way into contact and into the 
kingdom, to come to rest in God. 

Life with the visitors is at once far more sublime and ?civilized? 
than life among us. You get used very quickly to not having any 
secrets, and when you return to this existence and find that 
everybody is full of secrets, it’s very odd. It is important to live in 


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such a way that you don’t need your secrets, because if you want 
to be close to the visitors and the people who have a foot on their 
side of the line, you will not be able to keep them. The world of 
the visitors is a place where the truth us known. It is surrendered, 
profoundly surrendered, to the uses of God. 1681 

This Journal entry a full year before the publication of The Key an- 
ticipates a number of major themes and motifs from The Conversation: 
the kitten and the veterinarian, the nature of sin, human denial, the 
fall of man, every deed being “etched” upon us permanently, and being 
“surrendered” to God. From Strieber’s message board postings in late 
2000, it appears that the above Journal comes well before he began work 
in earnest on The Key in the second half of 2000. But even supposing that 
the words and thoughts expressed here came from the ‘true encounter’, 
it is remarkable how completely those themes and motifs were incor- 
porated into Strieber’s thinking and presented without attribution. It is 
as if there was simply no firm line between the Master of the Key and 
Whitley Strieber. Of course, it has already been shown that arguably all 
were alive in Strieber’s discourse before that night in Toronto with the 
exception of the kitten-and-veterinarian metaphor. 

It is obvious from this series of comparisons that Strieber borrows 
heavily from himself in The Key. Despite what Strieber rather weakly 
maintains in the introduction to the Tarcher, it cannot be simply that he 
was thinking along the same lines as the Master of the Key in certain of 
his speculations prior to June 1998. Rather, all of the important elements 
are there in specificity: ecstasy, return to the forest, surrender, superpo- 
sition, the destruction of souls, conscious machines, the story of the pig, 
conscious energy, and so on. Even Strieber’s pet fascinations are there: 
Wicca, Meister Eckhart, the gas chamber. 

The evidence points to The Conversation being an especially lucid 
organization and expression of a variety of thoughts nascent in Strie- 
ber’s mind for many years. We would have to forget everything we know 
about intellectual development in other authors and influences upon 
them to follow Strieber in thinking that the ideas of The Conversation 
originate with an otherworldly visitor. Of course, as we have seen, many 
of the ideas are not Strieber’s own. He takes from Gurdjieff-Ouspensky 
and he takes from Talbot and presents these ideas as his. He also takes 
theories that are au currant in the science news and presents them as 
bold predictions. 


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SCIENCE NEWS 

Most of the spiritual content here is a farrago of nearly every 
New Age preoccupation imaginable — aliens, reincarnation, time 
travel, millennial disaster, Atlantis, etc. — “proved” by highly 
credulous readings of popular science articles. [69 ' 

—Publisher’s Weekly review of The Secret School 

“Well, I read my share of science journals and I say it is!” 

— ‘General Samson’, 2012: The War for Souls 

A CONSTANT FEATURE of Strieber’s non-fiction is its heavy reliance 
on popular science literature and scientific journals. In The Secret School 
( 1997 ), for example, a book purportedly about early childhood experienc- 
es, Strieber supports his accounts with references to New Scientist, the 
Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, Nature, The Psychological 
Bulletin, science news in the New York Times, Scientific American, Science 
News, and Harper’s. Strieber’s online Journal and his audio interviews 
routinely involve Strieber roping in the latest science news, and even 
some of his novels are not immune: Strieber could not resist appending 
to his novel The Omega Point an “Author’s Note” in which he cited New 
Scientist, an article on charged particles by a certain Dr. Alexei Dimi- 
triev, and Teresa McDonald of the University of Kansas Natural History 
Museum. 

Given Strieber’s frequent recourse to science news, one might ask: is 
it possible to locate in the science news of the period any of the Master 
of the Key’s bold scientific observations or predictions? 

<&—t THE SUPERSTORM 

I did not know much about what he was saying at the time but 
it turned out to pretty much all be in different bits and pieces in 
the scientific evidence that I found. t7Ql 

The interesting thing about it is that he said it as far as I know 
before anyone else had — certainly before I’d heard it anywhere 
else. But once again, I looked up and found this would be one of 
the critical mechanisms of global warming. And of course, at the 
time the book — the Superstorm was written a year later when I 
was actually using some of this information from him, none of 


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this was believed at all by science. 1711 

[T]he book Superstorm is based on some explanations of the 
structure of climate change that he discussed and talked about, 
and which were considered completely ridiculous at the time but 
have now been generally accepted as true. [721 

WHETHER OR NOT Whitley Strieber is a liar, it is demonstrable that 
he has a knack for not only being wrong, but exactly wrong. The four 
statements above made between 2003 to 2015 say in effect that: a) Strie- 
ber did not know ‘much’ about any superstorm scenario before his ‘true 
encounter’; b) the scenario was only described in ‘bits and pieces in the 
scientific literature’; c) there was no belief in the scenario by scientists; 
d) the scenario is now generally accepted. 

First, these self-serving statements are belied by what Strieber him- 
self wrote in the Walker & Collier: 

This statement turned out to be a very exact description of 
a process that has been discussed for some years within the 
paleoclimatological community as an explanation for climatic 
upheavals in the past, and we were able to actually use their 
findings in Superstorm to support our theory. (89) 

Strieber said that in 2001, the Master of the Key’s sudden climate 
change scenario happened to be a “very exact description” of a scenario 
discussed among scientists “for some years”. If so, and we shall see that 
it is so, it would certainly militate against the statement made in 2003 
that “none of this was believed by science” since scientists had been 
entertaining the idea. It would then remain only to be seen whether 
Strieber knew ‘much’ about this scenario before his ‘true encounter’ 
and to what extent the sudden climate change scenario is “generally 
accepted as true”. 

Whether a sudden climate change scenario, perhaps including a 
superstorm, is “generally accepted as true” by today’s climate scientists 
is left to the reader. But it should be noted in passing that at least two 
elements of the Master of the Key’s 2001 scenario are today being ques- 
tioned: when and to what extent the land bridge between the Americas 
rose; [73] and b) and whether its emergence was in any way responsible for 
the initiation of ice ages. 1741 

As for whether Strieber knew “much” about a sudden climate change 


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scenario prior to his ‘true encounter’, one must start with Strieber’s own 
account of how he was introduced to this scenario. 

According to Strieber in The Prophecy of the Key, the statements made 
by the Master of the Key about sudden climate change led directly to 
the book The Coming Global Superstorm written with Art Bell. As result 
of what he had been told during the ‘true encounter’, Strieber began to 
research the matter and discovered there was supporting material in the 
scientific literature: 

The one thing that their studies did not confirm was the storm 
itself. In “The Great Climate Flip-flop” by William H. Calvin in 
the Atlantic Monthly in January of 1998 , it was postulated that the 
change had come very quickly in the past. ( 89 ) 

The scientific material cited at the end of The Coming Global Super- 
storm dates to March 1999, suggesting it was then that the book was 
finished. There is presently no way to know when the writing of the 
book started, and it may well have started only after the ‘true encounter’. 
The question becomes whether Strieber showed signs of knowing what 
the Master of the Key was to tell him regarding sudden climate change 
and the ‘superstorm’ scenario prior to their ‘true encounter’ of June 6, 
1998. 

First we must review what the Master of the Key actually said in The 
Conversation. He begins with the assertion that the earth is a “trap” (12), 
that mankind is “trapped” on earth (13), that extinction of the human 
race (i.e. “the destruction of six billion”) may well occur at least as result 
of overpopulation (13) though also Mankind’s activity is threatening to 
“destroy the earth” (15). The Conversation then takes a long detour into 
what man must to in order to survive (surrender to God and return to the 
forest 14, 15). Again on page 38, it is stated that “Mankind [...] is destined 
either to go extinct or to ascend” though still no mention is made of 
how precisely Man will go extinct. On page 56, it is said that Man has 
“come to the end of the resources” he was given, and on page 57 that the 
consumer society is a mechanism in the possible extinction: “mankind 
will never again lust after material wealth”. Certainly, overpopulation, 
exhaustion of natural resources, and pollution all have an environmental 
dimension, but none of these imply a specific extinction scenario. 

Finally, on page 68, with just seven pages left in the dialogue, the 
extinction scenario is given: 


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How will it be decided ? 

The climate will begin to change in 2000, and this process 
will accelerate over the next decades. There is a great cycle of 
climate that began 2.8 million years ago and has resulted in the 
fundamental destabilization of your world’s weather system. You 
evolved intelligence in order to survive the sudden shifts back 
and forth from ice ages to temperate periods. In fact, this plane- 
tary instability has been the engine of your evolution. The cycle 
is about to change, and to challenge you again. 

Why will this happen ? 

Warmth being retained near the surface by greenhouse ele- 
ments results in cooling aloft. A massive and extremely powerful 
convection can arise that results in a storm so great that it 
changes the climate permanently. 

What form will this take ? 

The next ice age will begin soon, and this will lead to the 
extinction of mankind, or to a massive reduction in population, 
given your inability to expand off the planet. This planet is at 
present a death trap. 

Why will this happen ? 

Because air at the surface is getting warmer, the north polar ice 
is melting, reducing the salinity of the Laurentian sea. At some 
point, winds crossing this sea due to the increasing difference 
between lower and higher atmospheric pressures will warm the 
northern ocean so much that the temperature differential needed 
to pump the North Atlantic Current will not be sufficient, and the 
current will slow down, stop, or stop flowing so far north. This 
same mechanism always triggers ice ages, and would happen 
within a few thousand years no matter what. However, human 
activity has sped up the process of atmospheric warming, so the 
change will be sooner and stronger. The greater part of human 
industry and culture, along with the species’ most educated pop- 
ulations, will be destroyed in a single season. This will happen 
suddenly and without warning, or rather, the warning will not be 
recognized for what it is. 

What will it be? 

First, the surface features of the currents will slow down. This 
will result in violent storms in Europe. At some point, arctic 
temperatures will rise forty or more points above normal during 
a spring or summer season. Then the currents themselves will 


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change their routes or stop. Cold air trapped above the arctic will 
plunge down and collide with the warm tropical air present at the 
surface. It will create the most powerful storms in ten thousand 
years, storms unlike any you have seen or imagined. They will 
bring about the end of the northern civilization and the climate 
change that follows will lead to the starvation of billions. 

My God. Can anybody do anything? 

You can write. Use your tool. But also, you will see the demon 
revealed in those who refuse to acknowledge the signs. Remem- 
ber that there is within you a powerful death-urge. But remember 
also, the cycle I speak of is a natural one. If you look into the 
fossil record, you will find evidence of it before. Human activity 
has not caused it, but only sped it up. ( 68 - 69 ) 

At a glance, the Master of the Key’s superstorm scenario appears 
quite novel. It does not reflect the consensus view, i.e. of runaway global 
warming, which was Strieber’s own view in his 1986 book Nature’s End. 
There is even something logically satisfying in the notion that nature is 
self- correcting, and that the earth’s global weather system has a failsafe 
whatever the deep and radical consequences for mankind. 

The scenario here can be broken into the following parts: 

1. The world’s weather system was fundamentally “destabilized” 
2.8 million years ago. We experience this instability as the alteration 
between ice ages and temperate periods. 

2. This planetary instability is specifically the cause, the “engine” 
of mankind’s evolution, the reason why man “evolved intelligence”. 

3. We are already due for a new ice age according to the natural 
cycle, but man’s activity has sped it up. 

4. Why this will happen is two-sided: first, greenhouse gases 
(presumably natural and man-made) cause heat that would otherwise 
gradually rise through the atmosphere to linger near the surface more 
than it should. This means colder temperatures above. At some point, 
the air temperature differential between atmospheric layers means 
conditions are in place for a massive storm. 

5. At the same time, warmer air near the surface melts arctic ice, 
lowering the salinity of the “Laurentian sea”, while (warm) winds trav- 
eling across this sea cause the North Atlantic Current to slow down, stop, 
or move south. 

6. When the North Atlantic Current changes direction or stops, 
unnaturally cold air above the arctic will suddenly be able to “plunge 


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down”, mix with the unnaturally warm air at the surface and so doing, 
produce “the most powerful storms in ten thousand years”. 

7. These storms will specifically lead to the “starvation of billions” 
and the destruction of the “greater part of human industry and culture”. 

Now we will examine Strieber’s 2004 claim that the scenario above 
existed only in “bits and pieces” in the scientific literature. That claim 
was already contradicted by his 2001 statement that it is a “very exact 
description” of a scenario already discussed by scientists. But showing 
just what information was available in the popular scientific literature 
serves as a preliminary step to asking how much of this scenario was 
known to Strieber before the ‘true encounter’. 

One can begin with the article Strieber himself mentions in both 
published introductions to The Key. The cover story of the January 1998 
issue of The Atlantic Monthly was an article called “The Great Climate 
Flip-flop” by William H. Calvin. Looking for support in the article for 
the seven points identified in the Master of the Key’s scenario one finds 
every point supported: 

1. The world’s weather system entered into “climatic instability” 
three million years ago with “flips” between ice ages and temperate 
periods “every few thousand years or so”: 

There used to be a tropical shortcut, an express route from 
Atlantic to Pacific, but continental drift connected North America 
to South America about three million years ago, damming up the 
easy route for disposing of excess salt. The dam, known as the 
Isthmus of Panama, may have been what caused the ice ages to 
begin a short time later, simply because of the forced detour. This 
major change in ocean circulation, along with a climate that had 
already been slowly cooling for millions of years, led not only to 
ice accumulation most of the time but also to climatic instability, 
with flips every few thousand years or so. 

2 . The “ape-sized hominid brain began to develop” in response to 
climate changes, and the development of civilization in the most recent 
temperate period is an expression of that evolution: 

The back and forth of the ice itself started 2.5 million years ago, 
which is also when the ape-sized hominid brain began to develop 
into a fully human one, four times as large and reorganized for 


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language, music, and chains of inference. Ours is now a brain able 
to anticipate outcomes well enough to practice ethical behavior, 
able to head off disasters in the making by extrapolating trends. 

Our civilizations began to emerge immediately after the great 
continental ice sheets melted about 10,000 years ago. Civiliza- 
tions accumulate knowledge, so we now know a lot about what 
has been going on, what has made us what we are. We puzzle over 
oddities, such as the climate of Europe. 

3. Man-made “global warming” could trigger an abrupt cooling, 
leading to an ice age that the world may be already due for: 

Now we know — and from an entirely different group of sci- 
entists exploring separate lines of reasoning and data — that the 
most catastrophic result of global warming could be an abrupt 
cooling. [...] 

We are near the end of a warm period in any event; ice ages 
return even without human influences on climate. The last warm 
period abruptly terminated 13,000 years after the abrupt warm- 
ing that initiated it, and we’ve already gone 15,000 years from a 
similar starting point. 

4. - 6. Calvin discusses the possible “great climate flip-flop” in 
terms of ocean salinity just as the Master of the Key does: 

Yet another precursor [...] would be the addition of fresh water 
to the ocean surface, diluting the salt-heavy surface waters 
before they became unstable enough to start sinking. More rain 
falling in the northern oceans — exactly what is predicted as a 
result of global warming — could stop salt flushing. So could ice 
carried south out of the Arctic Ocean. 

There is also a great deal of unsalted water in Greenland’s 
glaciers, just uphill from the major salt sinks. The last time an 
abrupt cooling occurred was in the midst of global warming. 

Many ice sheets had already half melted, dumping a lot of fresh 
water into the ocean. 

A brief, large flood of fresh water might nudge us toward an 
abrupt cooling even if the dilution were insignificant when av- 
eraged over time. 


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Importantly, there is no mention of atmospheric temperature dif- 
ferentials or “superstorms” in this article. It is a point to which we will 
return. 

7. A sudden climate flip-flop will lead to the loss of “much of civi- 
lization” and worldwide starvation: 

I hope never to see a failure of the northernmost loop of the 
North Atlantic Current, because the result would be a population 
crash that would take much of civilization with it, all within a 
decade. [...] 

The population-crash scenario is surely the most appalling. 
Plummeting crop yields would cause some powerful countries to 
try to take over their neighbors or distant lands — if only because 
their armies, unpaid and lacking food, would go marauding, both 
at home and across the borders. [...] 

Present-day Europe has more than 650 million people. It has 
excellent soils, and largely grows its own food. It could no longer 
do so if it lost the extra warming from the North Atlantic. [...] 

Any abrupt switch in climate would also disrupt food-supply 
routes. The only reason that two percent of our population can 
feed the other 98 percent is that we have a well-developed system 
of transportation and middlemen — but it is not very robust. The 
system allows for large urban populations in the best of times, 
but not in the case of widespread disruptions. 

What is perhaps most remarkable about the overlap between the 
Master of the Key’s sudden climate change scenario and Calvin’s is that 
Calvin, a neurophysiologist and not a climatologist, goes out of his way 
to make the assertion that climate change is what drove evolution of 
the human brain. The Master of the Key does the same. Also significant 
is that both scenarios point to starvation as the most direct outcome 
of sudden climate change. Both even discuss sudden climate change in 
terms of the destruction of “civilization” and to the same extent, the 
Master of the Key saying that the “greater part of industry and culture” 
will be lost while Calvin’s phrase is “much of civilization”. 

Clearly, rather than the sudden climate change scenario described 
in The Conversation existing only in “bits and pieces” prior to the ‘true 
encounter’, waiting for a Master of the Key to synthesize all the in- 
formation, a full outline of the scenario was present in just one article 
which Strieber claimed to have found only after the encounter. The main 


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difference remains that there is no mention of any superstorm in Cal- 
vin’s article. Calvin speaks only of “stronger storms” and “intensifying 
storms”. 

But does the Master of the Key himself call for a single giant storm? 

What will it be? 

First, the surface features of the currents will slow down. This 
will result in violent storms in Europe. At some point, arctic 
temperatures will rise forty or more points above normal during 
a spring or summer season. Then the currents themselves will 
change their routes or stop. Cold air trapped above the arctic will 
plunge down and collide with the warm tropical air present at the 
surface. It will create the most powerful storms in ten thousand 
years, storms unlike any you have seen or imagined. They will 
bring about the end of the northern civilization and the climate 
change that follows will lead to the starvation of billions. ( 69 ) 

The Master of the Key uses the plural (“storms”) and never the term 
‘superstorm’. Of course, powerful storms that are “unlike any [...] seen 
or imagined” could well merge as they sweep across a hemisphere and 
might be indistinguishable from one another. But it is noteworthy that 
in this regard, whatever Strieber’s The Coming Global Superstorm, the 
Master of the Key’s scenario tallies with the popular science literature, 
in this case, Calvin’s article. 

And what of The Coming Global Superstorm ? The book’s chapters 
alternate between non-fiction exposition and a fictional scenario. Only 
toward the end in the fictional scenario do the multiple competing 
storms merge more or less into a single superstorm which is when the 
non-fiction chapters adopt the term. 

Thus, in comparing the Master of the Key scenario with what was 
available in the popular science literature — indeed, the one item cited 
by Strieber himself though purportedly discovered by him only after the 
fact — there is point-by-point agreement. Strieber differs from Calvin’s 
sudden climate change scenario in two small ways: he locates the gen- 
esis of the storms in a widening atmospheric temperature differential 
not foregrounded among Calvin’s details. Strieber also exaggerates the 
suddenness and the severity of the storm(s). While Calvin spreads such 
a change across at least a decade, Strieber and the Master of the Key 
set it within a “single season”. As to why, one can point to Strieber’s 
own native catastrophism and to his notions about flash-frozen woolly 


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mammoths presented in The Secret School: 

Certainly, it is beyond serious dispute that there was a catastro- 
phe on this planet about twelve thousand years ago. The remains 
of this catastrophe are plain to see in the geologic record. They 
include the bodies of thousands of large mammals all across the 
arctic circle, quick-frozen with food still in their mouths, grasses 
frozen in the tender of spring, trees frozen with buds still intact 
on their boughs. (168-9) 

Clearly, Strieber could have been drawing on the Calvin piece when he 
was composing the Master of the Key’s sudden climate change warning 
in The Key. According to Strieber, he only became aware of a superstorm 
scenario after the Toronto encounter at which point he began to serious- 
ly investigate it. The question must be asked: does Strieber demonstrate 
any awareness of sudden climate change or the ‘superstorm’ scenario 
prior to the June 6, 1998, ‘true encounter’? 

In a near-lost interview Strieber gave to radiovalve.net while on his 
Confirmation book tour in May 1998 — a month before the ‘true encoun- 
ter’ — Strieber describes the climate change scenario then on his mind: 

As the temperature differentials between the tropics and the 
arctic region become less and less, circulation of the ocean de- 
clines because it depends on the temperature differential for the 
strength of the currents. You could end up in the ironic situation 
where global warming causes the gulf stream to stop flowing as 
far north as it does now and start dissipating in the Bay of Biscay, 
say. In which case, global warming causes Scotland to become 
like Lapland and England like northern Norway in a matter of 
one or two seasons. t751 

Interestingly we find here the missing concept of atmospheric 
temperature differentials. Strieber presents the above specifically in the 
context of ice-melt in the Antarctic, and looking through the science 
news of the period one finds a possible candidate for Strieber’s source: 
an article by William K. Stevens in January 27, 1998, edition of the 
New York Times. The article discusses the work of Wallace Broecker, a 
proponent of this scenario in the context of antarctic ice melt. Is there 
reason to suppose Strieber may have seen this article? For one, as is 
clear, Strieber heavily relies on the New York Times and other outlets. But 


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second, on a February 5, 1998, broadcast of Coast to Coast AM, Art Bell 
refers to this Times article in his news segment, quoting Broecker: “the 
climate system is an angry beast”. It suggests the sudden climate change 
scenario had entered the Art Bell milieu by early 1998, fully consistent 
with the eager end-times mindset of Coast to Coast AM in that period. 

Strieber was also writing about ocean currents and the loss of north- 
ern Europe in his Journal dated January 12, 1998, six months before the 
‘true encounter’d 761 

Our lives depend upon the flow of the ocean currents, which 
distribute heat and cold around the planet. The most important 
of these currents is probably the Gulf Stream, in that it keeps the 
Northeastern US, eastern Canada and parts of Northern Europe, 
especially the British Isles, much warmer than they would oth- 
erwise be. 

Warming of the waters in the southern hemisphere threaten 
ocean circulation, which is powered by the difference in tem- 
perature between water near the poles and water closer to the 
equator. The more even these temperatures become, the more 
likely it becomes that the currents will get less powerful. 

Should the Gulf Stream collapse south, the British Isles will 
experience a severe change in climate and could even become 
uninhabitable, at least by as many people as are there now. 

And a year before that Journal entry, Strieber did an interview with 
Art Bell on February 12, 1997, in which he discussed salinity and water 
temperature being affected by the melting of the Larsen ice shelf; drastic 
oceanic temperature change in the space of a few decades; and the Gulf 
Stream changing direction which: 

could really just very quickly transform Norway and England 
into climates that are similar to the climate of Greenland. That is 
the worst case scenario. 

Finally, in The Secret School, which appeared in hardcover in January 
1997, we have Strieber’s concerns about sudden climate change involving 
meltwater and the loss of northern Europe: 1771 

One of the things that reviewers of Transformation were par- 
ticularly derisive about was the prediction that the poles might 


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melt, because this was based in part on predictions derived from 
the Marian visions that took place at Fatima. In the book, I point- 
ed out that the New York Times had described 1987 as “a year of 
extraordinary glacial breakup.” This process has continued and 
worsened. On April 29, 1995, Science News stated, “The floating 
Larsen Ice Shelf lost three major pieces earlier this year,” giving 
off an iceberg the size of Rhode Island. 

U 

Scientists claim that even partial melting of the ice could have 
catastrophic consequences, causing massive rises in sea levels. 

One of the still-detached memories I have from my childhood 
involves ice coming down the sides of a mountain called Ben 
Bulben in the British Isles. In this recollection, I see England in- 
volved in a horrific catastrophe, a devastating change of climate 
that turns it into a deep freeze. 

It is interesting that the suddenness of this change has recent- 
ly been corroborated by new scientific insights about climate 
change. Researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Insti- 
tution, in examining ice core samples, have discovered that tem- 
perature changes of seven degrees Celsius may take place over 
just a few decades. “Our results suggest that the present climate 
system could be very delicately poised,” according to researcher 
Scott Lehman, as quoted by Ross Gelbspan in the December 1995 
Harper’s. 

What happened in the past was that the North Atlantic was 
warmed by fresh water coming in from increased rainfall and 
glacial melt, which changed the direction of warming ocean 
currents from northeasterly to due east. 

According to the New Scientist of November 11, 1995, “relatively 
small increases in the amount of freshwater entering the North 
Atlantic could cool Western Europe by several degrees Celsius.” 
According to oceanographer Stefan Rahmstorf, the weather 
will change radically if the fresh water flowing into the North 
Atlantic increases by 25 percent. Great Britain would become like 
Greenland over the course of a few years. If that happened, the 
ice would certainly flow down Ben Bulben once again. (197-199) 

It looks as if moving back into the mid-nineties when the melting of 
the antarctic ice dominated the news, Strieber’s concern was with ant- 
arctic melt-water disrupting conditions in the north Atlantic. By 2000 


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when arctic melt was the greater concern, Strieber (and the Master of 
the Key) relocated the trigger for the global catastrophe to the northern 
hemisphere. 

There was also a very good literary reason for this. In The Conversa- 
tion, the Master of the Key makes reference to the “northern peoples” 
and “northern civilization” (52, 69). At a glance this can appear to be a 
subtle argument for the dialogue’s authenticity. After all, one is accus- 
tomed to seeing human civilization presented as an east-west affair; 
whereas from orbit the use of electric light is by far more visible in 
the northern hemisphere, and nearly all of the world’s most powerful 
countries, politically speaking, are in the northern hemisphere as well. 
An otherworldly being might well look at the earth and see a single, 
dominant northern civilization. 

In fact, mention of the “northern peoples” and their civilization is 
a callback to alien abductee Betty Andreasson Luca, who while under 
hypnosis spoke in a “star language”. When subsequently translated out 
of Gaelic, she purportedly had said: 

The living descendants of the Northern peoples are groping 
in universal darkness. Their mother mourns. A dark occasion 
forebodes when weakness in high places will revive a high cost 
of living; an interval of mistakes in high places; an interval fit for 
distressing events. 1781 

The above appears in none other than Whitley Strieber’s Transfor- 
mation, and Strieber has at various times suggested he either was asked 
to pay for the translation work or initiated it personally. Strieber has 
referred to the quote directly several times on his podcast. 

Since The Conversation includes a moral indictment of the “northern 
peoples” and their civilization, it is entirely appropriate to locate the site 
of the disaster visited upon them in the northern hemisphere. Some- 
thing of a giveaway of Strieber’s decision to highlight the “northern” 
aspect appears on page 68 where reference is made to the “northern 
ocean”. While the ‘Southern ocean’ is the name given by geographers to 
the seas around Antarctica, there is no “northern ocean” per se. Strieber 
uses the name “northern ocean” to create linguistic guilt by association 
and, of course, because it sounds portentous. 

Interestingly, one feature of the imminent destruction of the 
“northern civilization” perhaps already underway is that of methane 
outgassing. Not only bubbling jets in the ocean but melting permafrost 


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and quite possibly giant sinkholes in Siberia since the time of the ‘true 
encounter’ may be down to the release of methane, a greenhouse gas 
thirty times worse than carbon dioxide. 1791 Yet the Master of the Key does 
not mention methane. 

How could Strieber fail to put methane into the Master of the Key’s 
disaster scenario? After all, from Strieber’s work one can get the im- 
pression that there has never been a catastrophe that Strieber did not 
like. In The Secret School alone, melting glaciers, holes in the ozone 
layer, cometary impacts, and more are presented as real possibilities, 
even imminent dangers. Strieber himself was warning about methane 
outgassing in April 2011, for example, in a ‘climate special’ whose ad- 
vertisement read in part: “Beginning with his book Nature’s End in 1985, 
Whitley has never been wrong about our changing climate”. How could 
the Master of the Key fail to mention such a lurid occurrence as giant 
sinkholes due to methane outgassing? 

The likely reason is that methane was hardly mentioned in The 
Great Climate Flip-flop. Thus it did not make enough of an impression on 
Strieber’s memory. Here one sees some of the limits on the Master of the 
Key’s ability to prophesy: whether it has been in the science news and 
the extent to which Strieber is able to recall the details. This latter shows 
itself when the Master of the Key recommends that we use nitrous oxide 
in the construction of “intelligent machines”. 

NITROUS OXIDE 

I’ve gotten accusations, ‘Oh, you wrote it yourself.’ You can’t. 

It’s impossible. No one in 1998 or even in 2002 when it was pub- 
lished would ever have offered an opinion that a gas could be a 
form of computer memory. Never! Who would think that? [So1 

IT IS CLEAR that Strieber was familiar with the sudden climate change 
scenario that was being discussed in The Atlantic Monthly, the New York 
Times, and elsewhere prior to his ‘true encounter’. It is also clear that he 
not only dissembled later about its general status in the scientific liter- 
ature, but seemed to be in a sort of wild denial about his own familiarity 
with it, forgetting his discussions of the disruption of ocean currents, 
dramatic cooling, and the loss of northern Europe in interviews and 
in his writings before the Toronto event ever took place. Of course, his 
degree of success at getting across the complex sudden climate change 
scenario using the Master of the Key as his mouthpiece was limited not 


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only by the space available in The Conversation but Strieber’s own grasp 
of the details. As seen, Strieber presented a simplified view and omitted 
mention of methane outgassing. 

The issue of Strieber’s grasp of the details surfaces again with the 
Master of the Key’s declarations that nitrous oxide “will bear memory” 
(64). The full exchange from The Conversation is as follows: 

Could we develop machines more intelligent than ourselves? 

You are lagging in this area. You cannot understand how to 
create machines with enough memory density and the inde- 
pendent ability to correlate that is essential to the emergence 
of intelligence. You waste your time trying to create programs 
that simulate intelligence. Without very large scale memory in 
an infinitely flexible system, this will never happen. 

Any specific design suggestions? 

Gas is an important component to consider in the construction 
of intelligent machines. Nitrous oxide will bear memory. Also, 
you may find ways of using superposition in very fast, very able 
quantum memory chips. (63-64) 

The question should be asked: Is there any scientific support for the 
Master of the Key’s suggestion about using nitrous oxide in the con- 
struction of intelligent machines? 1811 Or put another way: is there any- 
thing in the popular scientific literature at around the time of the ‘true 
encounter’ to explain Strieber’s use of this concept in The Conversation? 

In fact, if one is willing to suppose that Strieber made a mistake by 
writing of nitrous oxide instead of nitric oxide, there is clear support. In 
1992 Science named nitric oxide the “molecule of the year” and called it 
“first in a new class of neurotransmitters”. 1821 One 1997 article examined 
the role of nitric oxide in ‘non-local learning’, 1831 while another that same 
year was entitled: Nitric oxide: what can it compute ? 1841 In October 1998, the 
New York Times reported that three scientists were being awarded the 
Nobel Prize for work on nitric oxide, declaring that nitric oxide was being 
studied for its influence on human memory. 1851 A 1998 academic article 
called “Neural Signalling: It’s a Gas!” stated among other things that 
nitric oxide was diffuse throughout the nervous system and essential to 
brain function. This finding was radical inasmuch as it challenged the 
model of neuron-to-neuron communication: 

The discovery that the gas Nitric Oxide (NO) is a neuronal 


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signalling molecule has radically altered our thinking about how 
information is transmitted in the brain. Traditionally, neuro- 
transmission is thought to be spatially and temporally restricted 
and from the pre-synaptic to the post-synaptic neuron. However 
the release of NO does not require specialized point-to-point 
synaptic contacts and unlike traditional neurotransmitters, 

NO can diffuse through cell membranes. NO may therefore act 
without the need for conventional synaptic connectivity and 
its action is not necessarily locally confined to the immediate 
post-synaptic neuron . 1861 

Thus in the mid-to-late nineteen-nineties nitric oxide was being 
named as a component of human memory, and was being seen as able to 
somehow compute and hold information outside the usual neural-syn- 
aptic apparatus in a diffuse, non-local way. This understanding is 
already one part of the Master of the Key’s strange suggestion that a gas 
could “bear memory”. If nitric oxide could manage to do this within the 
brain free of the neural apparatus, in principle it could do it outside the 
brain as a free-floating gas. But what about nitric oxide in connection 
with “intelligent machines”, that is, artificial intelligence? 

Again it is useful to refer to the article Strieber himself cites in 
The Key. After all, one often finds there is a retroactive maneuver in 
Strieber’s work: after prophesying or describing a ‘vision’ or detailing 
some recovered memory, Strieber then finds support for it in the science 
literature — the same science literature over which it is clear he is con- 
stantly poring, making it likely that he knew of the ‘support’ before his 
prophecy, vision, or memory was formed, a fact then banished from his 
mind entirely as happened with the superstorm scenario. 

The article cited by Strieber in The Key was in the October 1998 New 
Scientist, called “Gas on the Brain”. It described how scientists were 
using simulations of the behavior of gas in the creation of artificial 
intelligence networks, so-called ‘gas nets’: 

But while your brain has 100 billion neurons interlinked in 
a huge electrochemical mesh, neural networks are made up of 
purely electronic neurons, known as “nodes” — typically about 
100 of them. And while every neuron in the brain connects to 
some 10,000 others, nodes in a neural network are lucky if they 
are wired to a few dozen of their peers. 

Clearly this leaves plenty of scope for computer scientists to 


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make these machines smarter, more adaptable and altogether 
more brainlike. 

One of the chief routes towards this goal has been to increase 
the number of nodes and the richness of their interconnections. 

So how is it that researchers in Britain, at the University of 
Sussex, have managed to create devices with the capability of 
large, complex neural nets that consist of just a handful of nodes 
and sometimes not a single interconnection? 

The answer, which is inspired once again by the workings of 
the human brain, lies in a virtual gas. The researchers’ approach, 
which they presented last month in Skovde, Sweden, at the In- 
ternational Conference on Artificial Neural Networks, opens the 
way for a new generation of powerful, lean computers, which 
they call “gas nets”. 

Of course, these scientists were not basing their new simulated 
networks on just any gas: 

A decade ago, brain researchers were surprised to find that a 
neurotransmitter could spread its modulatory message to distant 
neurons. Stranger still is that in large quantities this simple 
chemical is toxic and has a bad reputation as a constituent of 
photochemical smog. That chemical is nitric oxide (NO). 

The researchers doing the simulations were basing their updated 
models on ideas about the behavior of nitric oxide in the brain. 

The New Scientist article underlines the difficulties in doing simula- 
tions, even the innovative kind being discussed. Strieber, interested in 
putting bold predictions in the mouth of the Master of the Key, prob- 
ably drew some shrewd inferences: if nitric oxide was a part of human 
memory and it was being discussed in connection with simulations of 
neural networks, would it not simply be better to use the gas directly 
and create real intelligence using the gas? Given the inherent difficulties 
in doing simulations, this would be the forward-looking view: “You 
waste your time trying to create programs that simulate intelligence” 
(64). The rub emerged during the compositional process — the “most 
difficult writing struggle” of his life (7) — when Strieber ‘remembered’ 
the Master of the Key saying nitrous oxide instead of nitric oxide. This 
strange error thus robbed the Master of the Key of the basic context of 
one of his most prescient scientific visions. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


STRIEBER AND THE GOSPELS 

And once again at this point, there are echoes, very interesting 
echoes of the Gospels — mostly all of the biblical allusions in here 
are gospel allusions. They’re very subtle. 1871 

STRIEBER makes this point in one of his audio commentaries on The 
Key, and it is an accurate one: there are at least two dozen different bib- 
lical allusions in The Conversation . [88] The Bible clearly has an influence on 
The Key in a way the Koran or other scriptures do not. While Christianity, 
Buddhism, and Islam are said in The Conversation to form a Gurdjieffian 
triad as “one system in three” (27), Christianity is clearly favored in 
the Master of the Key’s world-historical account: it is the appearance 
of Christ that marks the change to the age of Pisces and represents a 
preservation of a purported age-old knowledge that the soul survives 
death. Furthermore, concepts like ascension, the fall of man, and so on 
clearly flow out of Christianity, even if they are not exclusive to it. 

That Christianity would have a favored status in The Conversation, of 
course, is consistent with Strieber’s own Catholicism. Had the Master 
of the Key’s discourse reflected an erudition in Buddhism or Islam that 
was outside Strieber’s own passing familiarity with both, it would have 
argued for the authenticity of the ‘true encounter’. As it is, the pre- 
sentation of the Master of the Key’s particular brand of Christianity is 
not only consistent with Strieber’s own (e.g. “be as little children”), the 
figure himself represents a special kind of Catholic fantasy for Strieber. 

Whatever Strieber’s somewhat ambivalent storytelling after the 
encounter about the Master of the Key perhaps being a Micmac indian, 
a member of the Knights Templar, or even a drummer in a Texas orches- 
tra, The Conversation paints a reasonably unambiguous picture of what 
the Master of the Key figure really was: he is someone on a mission of 
ecstasy (24) “wandering the earth” (30) for perhaps a lifetime waiting 
for the moment when he was able to present Whitley Strieber with the 
“new vision” of God and man. When asked if he was dead, the Master 
of the Key answers in the affirmative (29). He establishes that he is ho- 
lographically living and dying with all beings and that he is in ecstasy 
(30). The Master of the Key is thus even able to speak as God Himself at 
one point: 

If you passively let them confine the wealth and keep the se- 
crets, I will overturn your world yet again. (47) 


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That it is God who overturns worlds is confirmed later: 

I don’t remember a thing. 

Your species bears a wound in its soul that makes you deny the 
reality of the past that is plainly visible all around you. Mars was 
murdered by you. At that point, intervention occurred, as it will 
again when you destroy this planet, as will probably happen. This 
is the trigger for intervention, the destruction of a living world. 

Who intervenes? 

God acts. 

That is to say, you. 

Remember that God is holographic. Thus all act when God acts. 

You act. (55-56) 

Even the image of the Master of the Key ultimately settled upon by 
Strieber corresponds most closely to that of an elderly priest: a white- 
haired slightly built man dressed plainly in dark clothes — shirt, jacket, 
and slacks — who was “joyous” 1891 and who called Strieber “child” (26, 31, 
62, 67, 73, 74). All that was missing was the priestly collar. 

Of course, in the dialogue Strieber attempted to make him more than 
that: 


That’s an even more clever answer— what’s your name, anyway? 

If I said Michael? 

An archangel in a turtleneck? 

Legion, then? 

I think you’re a perfectly ordinary person with an ordinary mother 
and an ordinary name. 

I can imagine no greater honor than to be called human. (22-23) 

Strieber attempts to make him into an angel, which the Master of the 
Key counters in a rather transparent way to manage Strieber’s expecta- 
tions. When the Master of the Key says that he can “imagine no greater 
honor than to be called human”, it establishes that whatever his name, 
the Master of the Key is an otherworldly champion of mankind. Strieber 
returns to this theme in The Prophecy of the Key, the final section of the 
2001 Walker & Collier in which he writes: 

I was at mass on the morning of November 19, 2000, when 
one of the readings leaped out at me. I grew physically cold, as I 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


realized what I was seeing. 

I dropped the missal and stared ahead, barely hearing the mass 
that was now proceeding without one of its participants. 

What I had read appeared to be a direct prophecy about this 
time, and about the Master of the Key. [...] 

On that night, he had called himself ‘Michael.’ He had prophe- 
sied a terrible future, and told me enough about it to enable me to 
write a book of warning that was based in solid science. And here 
in the book of Daniel, was another version of that same warning. 

[...] 

Here are the verses that so unsettled me: 

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stan- 
dethfor the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, 
such as was never seen since there was a nation even to that same time: 
and at that time they people shall be delivered, every one that shall be 
found written in the book. [...] —Daniel 12: 1-3 

I was left with this thought: we do not really know how to 
describe these beings like Michael, through whom God shines. 

We call them angels, lords, princes, but how they may live from 
day to day, and what they mean to themselves in the spirit is not 
given to us to know. (103-104) 

Of course, it rather beggars belief that after supposedly raising the 
possibility with the Master of the Key that he was an archangel, Strie- 
ber’s blood would run cold months later at the suggestion that there was 
an archangel named Michael who would stand up for the “children of 
thy people” as a champion of mankind. This appears to be Strieber in 
his usual storytelling mode convincing us of a dramatic confirmation of 
events which on closer scrutiny does not hold. Nevertheless, it is clear 
in what is effectively his afterword to the Walker & Collier that Strieber 
eventually circles around to the conclusion that the Master of the Key is 
basically an angel living alongside us “day to day”. 

The effort to christianize the Master of the Key does not end there. 
In fact, there are arguably at least two ways that Strieber strongly asso- 
ciates the Master of the Key with Christ. 

First, Strieber has emphasized the ‘authority’ with which the Master 
of the Key spoke a number of times. For example: 

He was speaking from experience and certain knowledge. With 
authority! My God. [90] 


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I can’t communicate the authority with which he spoke . l91] 

To me he spoke with the voice of authority [...] l92] 

The guy spoke with what I describe as authority. t93) 

It is a frequent enough descriptor that it calls to mind what is said at 
the start of the first Gospel, Mark, about Jesus: 

And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as 
one who had authority, and not as the scribes. [Mark 1:22] 

The line is repeated in Matthew 7:29 and Luke 4:32. Of course, many 
might be said to speak with authority without calling to mind Jesus 
Christ. But the Master of the Key’s “authority” becomes more interesting 
when viewed alongside one of the more inscrutable details about him: 
that he doesn’t pay taxes. 

I thought you were an angel. 

You flatter me. I’m only a Canadian. But I don’t pay taxes. (58) 

The strange and completely out of place fact that he does not pay 
taxes gains a new aspect when one realizes that Jesus does not pay taxes 
either. From Matthew 17:24-27: 

24 After they arrived in Capernaum, the men collecting the two 
drachmas tax approached Peter and said: “Does your teacher not 
pay the two drachmas tax?” 25 He said: “Yes.” However, when he 
entered the house, Jesus spoke to him first and said: “What do 
you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive 
duties or head tax? From their sons or from the strangers?” 26 
When he said: “From the strangers,” Jesus said to him: “Really, 
then, the sons are tax-free. 27 But that we do not cause them to 
stumble, go to the sea, cast a fishhook, and take the first fish that 
comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a silver 
coin. Take that and give it to them for me and you.” 1941 

Jesus declares himself “tax-free” on account of the fact that he is 
among the “sons” (i.e. a son of God). Nevertheless, in order to be gra- 
cious and not to cause the tax collectors to “stumble”, Jesus produces the 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


payment in such a way that it is not he who is paying it. 

If it is true that the Master of the Key is being associated with Jesus 
in The Key as it appears, then it can be said that Strieber’s conception of 
the Master of the Key figure seems to waver between archangel-cham- 
pion of mankind and Jesus-like figure in order for Strieber to partake 
of the most holy vision possible. The tantalizing possibility that the 
Master of the Key could be all these things — dead man, risen man, man 
filled with ecstasy, man on a mission on lowly earth, an archangel, even 
Jesus himself in a sense — provides a real satisfaction. Indeed, as will be 
seen in a later section, precisely what the Master of the Key is does not 
matter: it is how he functions for Strieber that counts. 

Nevertheless, there is no denying, especially with all the gospel 
references that he makes in The Conversation, that the Master of the Key 
is presented to the reader as a half-man, half- otherworldly being with 
a kind of divine wisdom. This is why it is all the more surprising when 
he makes a clear mistake. 

Who were Mohammed and Buddha? 

Exactly who history portrays them to have been. But to under- 
stand what happened to them, you must understand that your 
entire pantheon of deities is you. God is you. The gods are you. 

Angels and demons are you. So it was mankind who spoke to 
Mohammed in his cave. So also, to Buddha under the Bhodi Tree, 
and to Christ in the desert. Who do you think showed him the 
cities of the plain? Satan is man, just as God is man. Satan seeks, 

God waits. But you do not surrender. Not even Moslems. Although 
the great Sufis have, some of them, somewhat, surrendered to 
God. As long as you defy God by self-will, Satan finds you and 
captures you. (27-28) 

The problem is that Jesus did not see the “cities of the plain”. Here 
the Master of the Key conflates two very different biblical episodes. In 
Genesis 19, there is the story of Lot and his wife when Sodom and Go- 
morrah (two of the “cities of the plain”) are destroyed. In Matthew 4:8, 
on the other hand, there is the temptation of Jesus by Satan during his 
forty days in the desert. In the latter, Satan takes Jesus to a high place 
and shows him the kingdoms of the world, offering them to him. 

One would think it unlike an otherworldly champion or even arch- 
angel who can speak as God to make such a fallible, even Strieber-like 
mistake. Indeed, Strieber made the same mistake in an interview in 1997, 


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one year before his ‘true encounter’: 

And these Visitors are hardly seductive. [...] So they don’t really 
fit the imagery of the demon. When Satan attempted to seduce 
Christ by offering him the cities of the plain, it was an alluring 
seduction, full of temptation. Not something horrifying . 1951 

Here again the Master of the Key’s words seem limited by the con- 
tents of Strieber’s mind. And to further compound the problems for 
Strieber in this area, the Master of the Key’s Christianity is like Strie- 
ber’s own in another respect: a certain equivocation when it comes to 
the historicity of Jesus. 

The question of whether there was a historical Jesus is raised in 
The Conversation twice. But two different answers are given: one clearly 
affirmative, the other evasive. 

What of Jesus? What of Buddha? 

Those are two different, but intertwined, questions. First, you 
must understand that the teachings of Buddha had reached the 
community of Hellenized Jews in which Jesus lived. So they 
form a part of Christianity. He was a spiritual revolutionary who 
brought a message of mercy and compassion and the dignity 
of man to a world of unimaginable terror. The Roman rule was 
blind and brutal and unspeakably greedy. Ancient knowledge was 
being murdered by Roman ignorance and Roman power. This 
knowledge consisted of how to consciously form a radiant body 
so that you would not recur into the physical, so that you would 
be free. Christ was here to preserve this knowledge and pass it 
down. But even his deposit was corrupted by Roman politicians, 
who transformed his practice into a religion after he died. 

There was no resurrection, then? 

No, that’s just the point — there was. But you lost the under- 
standing of it. The gospels describe what happened with great 
fidelity. He was seen. He did walk after his death. It was not his 
twin. ( 24 - 25 ) 

In the above passage, Jesus is referred to quite matter-of-factly as a 
“spiritual revolutionary” described with “great fidelity” in the gospels. 
Even the reality of the resurrection is affirmed. Nevertheless, much later 
in The Conversation, near its end, the question is asked more explicitly 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


and a very different sort of answer is given: 

Did Christ even exist? 

The gospel exists. You can get a copy and hold it in your hands. 

That’s all you need to know. But be careful. Along with its wisdom, 
the gospel contains many political statements. (61) 

The answer reads as if expressly designed to sidestep the question in 
favor of the gospel and its written “wisdom”. It is difficult to reconcile 
this with material earlier in The Conversation where Jesus is spoken of as 
an actual historical figure. But here again, an equivocation by the Master 
of the Key when it comes to an actual Jesus reflects doubts Strieber 
seems to have about the history of Christianity in real life. 

In a Journal entry from 2004, t96] Strieber demonstrates he is aware of 
questions about the historicity of Jesus. 

The imagery and ritual surrounding Christ is similar to that 
surrounding other savior deities, most notably Mithra. “He who 
will not eat of my body, nor drink of my blood so that he may be 
one with me and I with him, shall not be saved,” is an inscription 
from a Mithraic altar that predates the gospels by 90 years. The 
early Christian author Tertullian went so far as to claim that such 
inscriptions had been placed on these altars by Satan, who had 
gone back in time to do it in order to confuse Christians. 

Indeed, the similarities between Mithraism and Christianity 
are so numerous that it cannot really be denied that the older cult 
influenced the more recent one. The Mithraic Holy Father wore 
a red cap, robe, and a special ring, and carried a shepherd’s staff. 

All Mithraic priests were called “father,” and, despite Matthew 
23:9, Christian priests adopted the same title. Mithra’s bishops 
wore a mithra, or miter, as their badge of office. Christian bishops 
also adopted miters. The Mithraic mass involved the eating of a 
sunshaped bun embossed with the sword of Mithra, which was 
a cross. The Catholic communion wafer continues this Mithraic 
tradition, and the structure of the old Catholic Tridentine Mass 
closely mirrors the Mithraic mass. 

So, are we to conclude from all this that Christianity is just an- 
other cult that does not reflect any real truth? Or that the Koran is 
simply a fiction created by a paranoid schizophrenic? Or the bible, 
as some reformed Jewish scholars contend, a novel? 


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Well, of course. All these things are quite correct. The story of 
Christ is not based on history as observed and agreed by many, 
but on the hearsay of just a few people, none of whom were 
witness to the actual events. And there is every evidence that the 
structure of Christian ritual is taken from other cults. So, why 
should we think it special? [971 

Strieber, of course, goes on to say: 

So, if some time traveler came back with proof that Jesus had 
never existed, it wouldn’t shake my faith at all. Nor does the 
corruption of Islam shake my faith in the word of God that sifts 
through the Koran like a sublime perfume. 

What one sees here, interestingly, are two competing impulses in 
Strieber. On the one hand, the desire to be out in front and ahead of every 
intellectual argument is clearly in evidence here: if there are arguments 
why Jesus never existed, Strieber would be certain to try to get a handle 
on them. His intellectual vanity and desire to be truth-teller to the world 
require it. On the other hand, as the last excerpted paragraph shows, 
his indomitable religiosity also expresses itself in what amounts to a 
variation on the old apologetic argument that if there are errors in the 
Bible, for example, scribal errors in transmission, what remains is still 
the product of the Holy Spirit. 

Ultimately, it is a reflection of Strieber’s desire to reflect his entire 
thought in The Conversation that it bears the cracks in the intellectual 
edifice of his belief — while at the same time, of course, embodying 
those beliefs in an exemplar of human decency: the Master of the Key, 
who in his final imagined form fits the physical type of an elderly priest, 
who might also be an archangel, and who like Jesus also speaks with 
distinctive authority and does not pay taxes. 


OTHER PROBLEMS 

CERTAIN IDEAS in The Conversation that sound provocative are men- 
tioned only in passing, creating the impression that the Master of the 
Key has information in excess of what can be said in the conversation, 
and so must be speaking from a position of real knowledge. But the 
intriguing quality of these elliptically-presented ideas evaporates when 


518 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


it is discovered that, for example, they were floating around in the online 
paranormal milieu of the nineteen-nineties. 

One such case is the Master of the Key’s explanation for crop circles. 

Do energetic beings appear in the physical world? 

An example would be the much maligned crop circles. These 
are two dimensional portraits of these beings, self-created. They 
are trying to introduce themselves. (41) 

The idea that crop circles were being created by plasmas was being 
explored by W.C. Levengood in the 1990s and was well known, even 
being reported on at various times by Strieber’s associate, Linda Moulton 
Howe. 1981 Given that Strieber had been speculated for years prior that 
some plasmas might be manifestations of intelligent or conscious energy, 
the idea that crop circles might amount to “portraits” of these “beings” 
caused by the collisions with fields would come easily to Strieber. 

The question then is whether the particular emphasis on “two-di- 
mensional” had any basis in the milieu at around the time The Key was 
written. In fact, it did have such a basis. Certain websites presented the 
case that crop circles were two-dimensional representations of high- 
er-dimensional objects, and attempted to show using geometry that this 
was the case. 1 " 1 

One can also not help but notice that this geometrical perspective 
relates to the passage in The Conversation about object passing through 
a plane: 


f.J Am I right? 

You are, but that is a three-dimensional view, and thus limited 
by the limits of three-dimensional vision. Remember the analogy 
of how the two-dimensional being sees a solid object. As a ball 
passes through the flat plane on which such a being would be 
confined, it would not see the real shape, or even be able to con- 
ceive of it. By definition, a two-dimensional being cannot look up, 
for then it would see into the third dimension, which is impossi- 
ble for it to do. What it would see, always looking straight ahead, 
would be a dot that would grow into a line, then slowly contract 
again into a dot and disappear. It would never understand the 
true nature of the ball, because its two-dimensional mind cannot 
contain the concept of a solid object. (50) 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


As previously noted, this thought-artifact likely came to Strieber 
from Ouspensky. But what is significant about the discussion in The Con- 
versation about crop circles is the way Strieber incorporates speculations 
that are not even his own (crop circles caused by plasmas vs. caused 
by higher-dimensional objects), harmonizing them and making each 
the support for the other. When it is seen that the Master of the Key’s 
account of crop circles is not really original or authoritative and that 
these ideas come from distinct sources, one realizes the text is allusive- 
ly connecting these insights in a way to suggest a body of knowledge 
behind them which is not really there. 

This allusive construction of networked ideas can be seen in another 
notion that at first appears provocative and “deeply, profoundly new”: 
the eucharist and its relation to prehistoric cannibalism. 

How can we regain it? Is something like the Eucharist part of this 
science? 

Christ gave the Eucharist to mankind. But the Eucharistic feast 
was enacted from time immemorial. It began when you still lived 
in the forest. When the strong died, you ate their flesh to gain 
their strength. (39) 

Our belief in the ‘truth’ of this assertion is reinforced when in a very 
different context we read: 

How did we misuse this power? 

In those days, there were a few people on the earth with 
understanding greater than that of all your great scientists of 
today. But they guarded their knowledge ferociously. They were 
extremely secretive. The average man was little more than an 
animal, eating his brother for strength. So they lost everything, 
because you are a single being, and thus only as conscious as the 
least of you. (47) 

This harkens back to what we read before the eucharist was even 
mentioned in the dialogue: 

What will we do for this other world? 

You will draw it toward ecstasy just as your mentors draw you 
toward ecstasy. Right now, there are brilliant creatures there 
looking at the sky and devouring the flesh of their own children, 


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just as you did. Unless you help them, they will not make their 
evolutionary leap in time, and will go extinct. (35-36) 

The problem is that this idea of the eucharist stretching back into 
prehistory and involving cannibalism is a well-established idea. To give 
one example, Martin A. Larson in The Great Osiris as far back as i960 
wrote that: 

the doctrine of the eucharist has its ultimate roots in the 
prehistoric cannibalism practiced almost universally by savages, 
for the Nilotics, as well as many others, believed that we become 
what we eat; the virtues and the powers of the one killed and 
eaten pass into the eater. [...] 

One of the oldest of the Pyramid Texts is that of Unas, from 
the Sixth Dynasty, ca. 2500 B.C. This is of importance because it 
shows that at that time the original ideology of Egypt was still 
intermingled with the Osirian concepts. Although he is ultimately 
given high place in heaven by order of Osiris, Unas is represented 
as being at first an enemy of the gods and his ancestors, whom he 
hunts, lassoes, kills, cooks, and eats so that their powers become 
his own. The story of Unas is a relic from an age in which the 
eating of parents had been considered not only an efficacious 
but also a laudable ceremonial, and it emphasizes how difficult it 
must have been for the Osirian priests to stamp out the primor- 
dial cannibalism. 

Although crude, savage, and grotesque to us, this sacerdotal 
cannibalism was, nevertheless, the core of a fearfully dynamic 
concept which still survives. [100) 

Strieber pushes the cannibalism farther back to the days of human 
origins in order to keep the time window open for his antediluvian 
civilization eventually destroyed for its misdeeds. Traces of his preoc- 
cupation with this Atlantean notion are visible in the question about ‘is 
there a record’ of this eucharist, invoking Edgar Cayce’s Hall of Records 
said to date back to the antediluvian civilization. 

How can we regain it? Is something like the Eucharist part of this 
science? 

Christ gave the Eucharist to mankind. But the Eucharistic feast 
was enacted from time immemorial. It began when you still lived 


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in the forest. When the strong died, you ate their flesh to gain 
their strength. 

Did it work? 

Don’t joke with me. It was pitiful. 

Is there a record of the Eucharist before Christ ? 

There is. 

What is it? 

I’m not interested in answering. You will find the science of 
ascension in the dancing of the Sufis, the meditations of the Yogi, 
the chanting of the monastics. This science is lost as a science, 
but it can be regained. ( 39 ) 

But on closer scrutiny, the question as to a “record” seems non- 
sensical: if the cannibalism under discussion dates back to mankind’s 
origins a la the opening scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey there could not 
possibly be a “record”. We get this sort of picture from the Master of 
the Key when he talks of the time we were still living “in the forest” 
eating the strong for their strength. We get it from him as well when we 
hear of intelligent life on another world we are meant to save currently 
“devouring the flesh of their own children”. The Master of the Key seems 
to present two different pictures simultaneously: an early stage of man 
from perhaps a hundred thousand years before and an antediluvian civ- 
ilization perhaps fifteen thousand years old. Thus the question as to a 
“record” of the eucharist only seems to make sense in an associative way 
connecting human origins and the “previous civilization” (14) without 
the connection existing anywhere as such. 

One starts to understand why the Master of the Key would paint this 
confusing and seemingly contradictory picture when it is realized that 
Strieber was putting forward this exact picture in his book The Secret 
School: 


What I expect to see are cavemen and mammoths and — wonder 
of them all — a saber-toothed tiger. But I do not see these things. 
Indeed, something very different appears — a whole, complete 
world that is in no way our modern world. I see it only for a 
moment, then it is gone. But the color, the complexity, the sense 
of life — it’s all quite amazing. 

I see cities, but they seem isolated and enclosed, much more so 
than at any time in our recorded history. Most of the people are 
outside cities and live primitive lives. Those inside, though, exist 


522 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


in a state that even today would seem like magic. 

This is not a good world. The oppressions of Rome are kind 
compared to what chains these people. Their knowledge may be 
greater than what we have now, but they have used their intelli- 
gence to enslave their own souls. This world is engaged in some 
sort of obsessive project, and I know what it is. They are trying 
to escape. They are trying to break the chains that bind them to 
the Earth. 

I go closer, I enter myself as I was then — and I find that it is 
a very troubled self. I am afraid. We are all dreadfully afraid. We 
have deep mines, and in them are detectors that tell us what is 
happening in the center of the Earth. I know that Earth’s core is 
crystalline iron, not molten as we think in 1995. (147-148) 

Strieber’s visionary insight that the “Earth’s core is crystalline iron, 
not molten as we think in 1995” happened to coincide with a 1995 article 
in the New York Times: “The Core of the Earth May Be a Gigantic Crystal 
Made of Iron” by William J. Broad published April 4. In the Times article, 
Broad writes: 

But new studies suggest otherwise. This mass of metal appears 
to have a texture or grain much as wood does. Going further, 
some experts say it may be a solid crystalline structure of gigan- 
tic proportions. 

“My hypothesis is that it’s like a diamond in the center of the 
earth, just one single crystal,” Dr. Ronald E. Cohen, a geophysicist 
at the Carnegie Institution of Washington who is using super- 
computers to model the core’s structure, said in an interview. 

1 ...] 

The main way of studying this out-of-the-way region is with 
sensors that pick up faint vibrations in the ground, which allow 
scientists to map the paths and speeds of shock waves that radi- 
ate out from big earthquakes the way ripples cross a pond. 

One should compare this to what Strieber says channeling his past 
life in the previous civilization: 

We understand how even the slightest blow to the planet’s 
surface, correctly delivered, can cause this crystal to begin vi- 
brating, and when it vibrates it creates movements in the mantle 


523 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


like waves in a storm. When struck, Earth behaves like a plastic. 

We use these detectors to tell us things about the Earth that our 
present age no longer understands. (TSS 148) 

In case the intellectual travesty here is not enough, it should be 
pointed out that in The Conversation the Master of the Key affirms Strie- 
ber’s vision of himself having a past life in that previous civilization: 

So what happened to the old world, as you call it— this civilization in 
which I’m not even sure I believe? 

You lived in it— as, when you die, you will recall. It was de- 
stroyed and all of its works were undone and laid waste. Where 
there are now deserts, there were great cities. [...] (53) 

So Strieber has a vision of himself and a past civilization that draws 
on a New York Times science news article. He passes off his vision as 
having prophetic dimensions by knowingly or unknowingly suppressing 
the fact he has gotten the information from the article. Then he has a 
conversation a few years later with an otherworldly visitor who presents 
the same vision of the previous civilization as fact while affirming that 
Strieber “lived in it”. It is perhaps worth noting that the theory of the 
single-crystal iron core has since been abandoned.' 1011 

The Conversation is convincing as a literary creation, partly because 
its evocative and allusive assertions indirectly find their basis in other 
assertions, partly because the assertions circle tantalizing lacunae. But 
when under closer scrutiny the associations dissolve, or when Strieber’s 
own speculations seem to be the real basis for those evocative asser- 
tions — any hope that the words of the Master of the Key describe an 
actual reality evaporates. Another example of this problem is the claim 
by the Master of the Key to the effect that ‘Mars was murdered’ (55). 

There was an actual, physical battle? 

There is a sacred science. It enables complete mastery of time 
and space. You had access to this science and used technology 
based on it. You went to war. This whole solar system bears 
scars from the battle, some of them terrible. You remember this, 
because you fought. 

I don’t remember a thing. 

Your species bears a wound in its soul that makes you deny the 
reality of the past that is plainly visible all around you. Mars was 


524 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


murdered by you. At that point, intervention occurred, as it will 
again when you destroy this planet, as will probably happen. This 
is the trigger for intervention, the destruction of a living world. 

Who intervenes? 

God acts. 

That is to say, you. 

Remember that God is holographic. Thus all act when God acts. 

You act. 

We remember this as the angel with the fiery sword who drove us 
from the garden? 

The planet was seized with upheaval, its climate revised. You 
fought each other like starving rats, in the end. Then, when you 
had lost everything, your beautiful world was turned under by 
the hoe of forgetfulness. (55-56) 

In the Master of the Key’s account, the “previous civilization” (14) 
was destroyed because it went to war with God. The previous civiliza- 
tion at least in some measure coincided with what still exists of ancient 
Egypt: 


What is prayer? 

A lost science of communication. This planet was once covered 
by a gigantic instrument of communication and ascension. Tones 
were important to inducing a correct flow of energy in the bodies 
of creatures. The ringing of the Egyptian obelisks set the correct 
frequency. Using this instrument, human beings could project 
themselves into higher worlds— what you call interstellar space, 
but also higher space. All of the ruins you see and consider as 
entirely separate from one another were actually part of the 
single great machine. This was a subtle machine. It did things 
far more sublime than any of your current machines. It was a 
machinery of God, this machine. It was very intelligent, infused 
with many souls. It could be addressed — programmed, if you 
will — with carefully patterned groups of words. These formulae 
became ritualized among the ignorant as prayers and magical 
formulae, for they assumed that the machine must be the god of 
those who addressed it, and they tried to do the same, in hope 
that it would grant them some benefit. However, the language of 
the machine was the language of nature, for the machine was not 
separate from nature. (62-63) 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


But if the previous civilization ended, for example, within the 
past twenty thousand years, which one might suppose given that the 
ruins we “see and consider entirely separate from one another” still 
exist — when precisely was Mars murdered? Scientists today believe that 
Mars has been a wasteland for billions of years? 1021 How then could a 
past human civilization that died with the last ice age destroy Mars a 
few billion years in the past? The Conversation says: “There is a sacred 
science. It enables complete mastery of time and space” (55). Did the 
previous world’s civilization reach back in time? 

It is a question for which the already cryptic text has no clear answer. 
Luckily, there is an answer if one looks elsewhere in Strieber’s work: 

All the years I had with the visitors have fairly well convinced 
me that they actually LIVE across time and outside of time. I 
think that they arrived here, in a synchronous present, about 
sixty years ago. My guess is that they found a very different earth 
from the one we know. 

The instant they arrived, they spread across our entire time- 
line, probably creating the entire array of life on earth, even 
going back into the past to actually set up this solar system as 
a life-sustaining machine. If Jupiter wasn’t out there absorbing 
blows like the recent Shoemaker-Levy comet, the inner solar 
system would be a ravaged mess, and if the moon wasn’t rotating 
at just the right point, and the earth just the right distance from 
the sun, there would be no life here. Statistically, it’s really all but 
impossible that this particular set of circumstances would occur 
by accident. So, lets assume that it didn’t. 

What I suspect that the visitors found here was a planet some- 
thing like Mars, without a moon. They saw what Jupiter was 
doing and realized that with the fairly minimal effort — for them 
— of moving back a few billion years and setting up the moon, 
they could re-create the earth moon system as a life-making 
machine. 

So our entire half a billion year history of evolutionary change 
is, in their objective time, only a few decades old! But for us, it’s 
all taken the millions of years that we see in the fossil record! 

This Journal dates from July 19, 2006, 11031 and reflects the very Ous- 
penskian thinking that “outside of time” one can view past, present, 
and future as one completed object. In the Journal, the ‘visitors’ appear 


526 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


in the nineteen-forties, fully in keeping with the UFO lore. But given 
their complete mastery of time and space, they proceeded to move both 
forward and backward in time and human history, even setting up the 
“life-sustaining machine” that is the solar system in order to give rise 
to human life. 

The same logic no doubt explains how according to the Master of 
the Key, a previous human civilization which had “complete mastery 
of time and space” could destroy Mars a few billion years in the past. 
In both cases, there is a kind of celestial engineering: when it comes 
to Strieber’s speculation about the visitors, it was a constructive one 
inasmuch as they created the earth. When it comes to the Master of the 
Key’s pronouncement that ‘Mars was murdered’ by fallen human beings 
in a previous civilization who went back in time to destroy their enemy, 
the celestial engineering was clearly negative. 

One can only conclude on seeing two speculative scenarios so 
mirroring each other that when it comes to the Master of the Key and 
Strieber, the former clearly is the latter — and not for the science-fic- 
tional reason offered up by Strieber that the Master of the Key might be 
Strieber from the future . 11041 The Master of the Key is an imaginary figure, 
a device allowing Strieber to enter into a self- dialogue. Is it any wonder 
then given the profound confusion that is the very basis of this book that 
Strieber himself cannot tell what parts he wrote? 


PART FIVE 


DATING THE TARCHER 

IT HAS BEEN SHOWN that when reading aloud from his own book, 
a book altered by ‘sinister forces’, Strieber was unable to notice changes 
had been made, and that he was able to give elaborate and convincing 
interpretations of ‘censored’ passages without any problem. 

It has also been shown that with his charge of censorship, Strieber 
was unable to give a single consistent account of how the alteration was 
done, suggesting implausibly at various times that the changes were 
done to a file after it had been sent to the printer, or that changes were 
made by hand to proof sheets in his possession. 

Finally, it has been shown that the ‘new vision’ presented by the 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Master of the Key actually originates with Whitley Strieber, and con- 
sists of the latter’s ideas to the point that the Master of the Key repeats 
verbatim assertions made by Strieber in various books and interviews, 
suggesting an author who if he is not lying is profoundly confused. 

Given the problems with Strieber at every stage concerning The 
Key — indeed, it is impossible to imagine an account more riddled with 
problems from start to finish — one can be forgiven for wanting to set 
aside everything Strieber has said about the composition of the Tarcher 
AK to focus instead on the internal evidence of the texts. 

The first question that should be asked: is there any evidence that 
any Tarcher AK existed prior to 2011? After all, Strieber could have made 
all the changes that appear in the Tarcher prior to that book’s publica- 
tion. 

In fact, there is evidence that Tarcher AK existed prior to the Tarch- 
er’s 2011 publication. 

1. In a Journal entry called “Easter, 2002” dated Saturday, March 30, 
2002, 1 111 Strieber quotes from The Conversation using Tarcher AK text: 

The moment that God tells Abraham not to kill Isaac is a record 
of one of the most sacred of all human moments, for it sets the 
stage for the next age. 

The text in the Walker & Collier is this: 

The story of God telling Abraham not to kill Isaac is a record of 
one of the most sacred of all human moments, for it sets the stage 
for the next age ( 42 - 43 ) 

2 . In an unknowncountry.com news story, which is nothing more 
than a paragraph of news and a lengthy quotation from The Key, called 
“You May Own a Conscious Computer Someday” and dated Monday, De- 
cember 8, 2008, [2) the Tarcher AK is as follows: 

It would use indirect means. It might foment the illusion that 
an elusive alien presence was here, for example, to interject its 
ideas into society. 

The text in the Walker & Collier is this: 

It would use indirect means. It might spread the illusion that 


528 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


an elusive alien presence was here, for example, to interject its 
ideas into society. 

3 . Finally, in a stroke of irony, the Walker & Collier edition of The 
Key itself quotes from the Tarcher. On page 30 of The Conversation in the 
2001 Walker & Collier it reads: 

Man will persist, waiting until and if the earth spins elemental 
bodies once again that fit all the attachments of your energetic 
bodies. If it does not, then you wait forever. You remain incom- 
plete. 

But in the section called The Prophecy of the Key where Strieber gives 
interpretations of a number of passages, Strieber quotes this from the 
dialogue in place of the answer above: 

We wait until and if the earth spins elemental bodies once again 
that fit all the attachments of our energetic bodies. If it does not, 
then we wait forever. We remain incomplete. (97) 

This text would appear in the Tarcher version of The Conversation as 
AK some ten years later. 

Given that at least some of the Tarcher AK existed well before 2011, 
and that Strieber himself was quoting a Tarcher AK in the Walker & 
Collier, does this not show that Strieber’s censorship claim was valid? 
Unfortunately, there are some basic problems with the claim even 
beyond the fact there was no coherent account of how it was done. 

The first and primary reason why Strieber concluded that his text 
had been censored, and why he went public with this conviction, was 
that he had sent to Tarcher his original Microsoft Word manuscript with 
its last modified date of November 16, 2000. According to Strieber, his 
text had not been altered since that time and since the 2011 Tarcher 
matched his old manuscript file, any differences appearing in the Walker 
& Collier had to come from alteration. 

But this is from the original 2001 introduction to The Key, the section 
called The Master of the Key: 

It is now December of 2000, and I have just completed the most 
difficult writing struggle of my life. At first, the memories came 
fast and easy. Soon, there were twenty pages, then thirty. But 


529 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


then I began to worry. (7) 

It rather puts to bed the notion that Strieber had finished working 
on The Key on November 16, 2000. Of course, the November date might 
refer to a last modified date of a file containing only The Conversation. 
Strieber might have created a different Microsoft Word file for each 
section of the book or he might have written the sections surrounding 
The Conversation in PageMaker. Or he might have written all the book’s 
sections in the same Microsoft Word document, and added the month of 
December during the book’s proofing process revisions. Any number of 
possibilities exist. 

And this is the problem. The differences between the two texts can 
be accounted for in a variety of ways — all banal. Nearly all of the differ- 
ences can be seen as simple editorial decisions. Take, for example, the 
Tarcher AK quoted in Strieber’s 2002 Journal entry: 

The moment that God tells Abraham not to kill Isaac is a record 
of one of the most sacred of all human moments, for it sets the 
stage for the next age. 

Anyone with an eye for editing would immediately see the problem 
with this sentence: a “moment” is said to be a “record” of a moment. 
The word “moment” is used twice and creates a clanging repetition; 
moreover, logically speaking, a moment is not a record. So one can easily 
see why the Walker & Collier revised the awkward sentence into this 
better prose: 

The story of God telling Abraham not to kill Isaac is a record of 
one of the most sacred of all human moments, for it sets the stage 
for the next age (42-43) 

Now a “story” is said to be a “record” of a moment. This is an obvious 
improvement, and clearly, the Walker & Collier in this case represents a 
revision of the Tarcher. 

The same problem can be seen again in the Tarcher: 

Isn’t this going to heaven? 

There is an element of ecstasy, but it is not complete. When 
another elemental forms that fits the pattern of that particular 
fragment [...] 


530 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


In this passage, there is a bad repetition of the word “element”. 
There is an “element” of ecstasy, but then there is “another elemental”, 
and it is not clear what the free-floating adjective “elemental” is meant 
to modify. The word has been left out. 

Here is the Walker & Collier version of the same exchange: 

Isn’t this going to heaven ? 

There is some ecstasy, but it is not complete. When another 
elemental body forms that fits the pattern of that particular 
fragment [...] (17) 

The distracting repetition is removed, and the missing word “body” 
has been supplied. Again, the Walker & Collier text clearly reflects an 
improvement over the Tarcher. 

We see the same situation again with the Tarcher in this example: 

We learn from our mistakes. But those who give themselves to 
evil suffer. Make no mistake. They can become so heavy that they 
sink into the earth, fust as the energetic body can enjoy extraor- 
dinary pleasure, it can suffer excruciating pain. You have in your 
body a few million nerves. But in your energetic body, every tiny 
bit of being can experience the totality of ecstasy or agony. 

As shown previously, ‘make no mistake’ is an expression of emphasis 
Strieber relies on. But in this exchange, which begins with “we learn 
from our mistakes”, it creates a distracting repetition, even a contradic- 
tion. So the Walker & Collier removes it: 

We learn from our mistakes. But those who give themselves 
to evil suffer. They can become so heavy that they sink into the 
earth, fust as the energetic body can enjoy extraordinary plea- 
sure, it can suffer excruciating pain. You have in your body a few 
million nerves. But in your energetic body, every tiny bit of being 
can experience the totality of ecstasy or agony. (48-49) 

These are a few of the differences that reflect examples of editing 
done for the Walker & Collier but not the 2011 Tarcher. At a minimum, 
they demonstrate that there was some sort of proofing process for the 
text of the original manuscript after it was created in Microsoft Word. 

There are also typographical mistakes corrected in the Walker & 


531 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Collier that are not corrected in the Tarcher: 

1 . On page 21 of the Walker & Collier, a phrase reads “such a way”, 
but in the Tarcher “such away”. 

2 . On page 30 of the Walker & Collier, a phrase “need to return to” 
appears in the Tarcher as “need return to”. 

But are there any cases where the Tarcher demonstrates editorial 
improvement over the Walker & Collier? 

When it comes to typographical mistakes, the Tarcher corrects 
some typos in the Walker & Collier: on page 32 of the latter, the phrase 
“seemed imply” was corrected for the Tarcher to “seemed to imply”. On 
page 33 of the Walker & Collier, “self will” becomes “self-will” in the 
Tarcher. On page 66 of the Walker & Collier, “time, But” is corrected to 
“time. But”. 

But when it comes to editorial changes at the level of wording, there 
are no Tarcher AK that unequivocally represent improvements on the 
Walker & Collier of the sort seen above. There are some differences that 
seem ambiguous and that could only arguably reflect attempts to im- 
prove the text. For example, the following is from the Walker & Collier: 

I’m not interested in answering. You will find the science of 
ascension in the dancing of the Sufis, the meditations of the Yogi, 
the chanting of the monastics. This science is lost as a science, 
but it can be regained. ( 39 ) 

In the Tarcher, instead of “chanting of the monastics”, the phrase 
used is: “prayer of the Christian monastics”. The Tarcher is more specif- 
ic about what kind of “monastics” is being mentioned, and so arguably 
is an improvement, though something already readily identifiable with 
Christian monks, namely “chanting”, is lost. 

Another case: as quoted in the December 8, 2008, news story, one 
Tarcher AK is: 

It would use indirect means. It might foment the illusion that 
an elusive alien presence was here, for example, to interject its 
ideas into society. 

The Walker & Collier uses the word “spread” instead of “foment”. 
One might here opt for “foment” as a more sophisticated use of lan- 
guage, and in its sense of ‘to foster’, the word “foment” might well 
be more correct. At the same time, “foment” is a word that one finds 


532 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


exclusively in written English and not in conversation. Strieber, at pains 
to convince readers that this was the transcription of an actual conver- 
sation, might have decided to replace “foment” with “spread” as more 
natural-sounding. Again, the difference is at best equivocal. There are 
no cases among the smaller Tarcher AK where the Tarcher represents 
an obvious editorial improvement on the Walker & Collier text as we saw 
earlier in reverse. 

Even without a comprehensive survey of ah the differences, it can be 
seen that contrary to Strieber’s assertion, some sort of proofing process 
took place that involved purely editorial changes being made to his orig- 
inal text back in 2000. If there was a Microsoft Word file dated November 
16, 2000, that file did not represent the final stage of the composition 
process. 

And so, are differences between the texts not to be expected? In 
Strieber’s own telling of events, the original Microsoft Word manuscript 
was sent to Tarcher. That file, according to Strieber, contained ah the 
Tarcher AK. Wherever the text unique to the Walker & Collier came from, 
if Strieber is at ah accurate about his manuscript file, none of the Walker 
& Collier AK would appear in the 2011 Tarcher unless also made in the 
Tarcher’s proofing process. In other words, if Strieber made a correction 
during the Walker & Collier’s proofing process, and then ten years later 
made the same correction independently in the Tarcher’s proofing pro- 
cess, then it would appear in the Tarcher and only for that reason. 

Without being able to see the original Microsoft Word manuscript 
file, there is no telling how extensive, of course, the Tarcher proofing 
process was. There might have been many changes to the original text or 
there might have been very few. A number of differences in the Walker 
& Collier that look like editorial improvements made during its own 
proofing process do not show up in the Tarcher, suggesting the proofing 
process for the Walker & Collier was more extensive. 

What of the more important differences? After ah, in claiming cen- 
sorship Strieber pointed to several areas of difference between the texts 
that were substantial. In some cases, entire paragraphs from the Tarcher 
were missing in the Walker & Collier. 

In light of the foregoing in this paper, it does not seem strictly 
necessary to perform a forensic textual analysis to evaluate Strieber’s 
censorship claim. The Key is already based on a profound confusion be- 
tween Strieber and a fantasy figure, and many of the details presented 
by Strieber in an effort to maintain that fantasy are either not possible 
or contradicted by other details. For instance, Strieber’s work on The 


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Key could not have been completed on November 16, 2000, if he was still 
writing in December. Strieber’s claim that the text of the Word file was 
‘converted’ to PageMaker with no changes being done does not survive 
scrutiny in light of all the editorial changes visibly present in it com- 
pared to the Tarcher. Strieber’s description of his writing and editing 
process seems as confused as everything else surrounding The Key. 

The basic question concerning the Tarcher AK is whether they repre- 
sent changes made by Strieber specially for 2011 Tarcher or whether they 
date from the time of Strieber’s first finished manuscript. 

Consistent with Strieber’s assertion that he sent Tarcher his Mic- 
rosoft Word file dated November 2000, it appears that the latter is the 
case. One of the larger areas of disagreement between the Tarcher and 
the Walker & Collier has to do with ‘mind control’. The subject-matter 
encompasses not only the means by which human affairs are controlled 
from a higher level, but also the nature of Whitley Strieber’s implant. 

From the Walker & Collier: 

Another world is in control of this one ? 

Other worlds participate, both elemental and energetic. 

[...] 

How do they control this world? 

Very generally. 

General fields of control? 

Directional suggestion. 

Telepathy? 

Extremely sensitive circuits can pick up and decode thought. 
Microwaves can be used to project thought into the brain. But 
the fields of which I speak are much more general. They create 
tendencies. The desire is to preserve the maximum amount of 
freedom in the maximum number of individuals. 

Have any people from earth ever gone to other worlds? 

A whole world of human beings has been evolved artificially off 
the planet, and they come and go freely. 

What are you talking about? 

Human beings are being born and raised off the earth. You can 
find their habitations if you look. They live in this solar system. 

My God. How many? 

Thousands. 

What do they do here? 

They help to enforce mankind’s blindness by preventing sci- 


534 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


ence from exploring the key mysteries of the past and discovering 
a practical means of expanding into the universe. (36-37) 

From the Tarcher: 

Another world is in control of this one ? 

Yes. 

[...] 

How do they control this world? 

By planning, and they use mind control. 

Am I under mind control? 

The opposite. The technological intervention that has occurred 
in your case has been done to make certain that general fields of 
control will not affect you. 

General fields of control? 

Directional suggestion that is applied to all who are enhanced 
electrically. This is the means of control of military and govern- 
ment. 

Telepathy? 

Radio frequencies. Extremely sensitive circuits can pick up and 
decode thought. Microwaves can be used to project thought into 
the brain. But the fields of which I speak are much more general. 

They create tendencies. The desire is to preserve the maximum 
amount of freedom in the maximum number of individuals. 

Have any people from earth ever gone to other worlds? 

A whole world of human beings has been evolved artificially off 
the planet, and they come and go freely. 

What are you talking about? 

Human beings are being born and raised off the earth. You can 
find their habitations if you look. They live in this solar system. 

My God. How many? 

Thousands. 

What do they do here? 

They enforce mankind’s blindness by preventing science from 
exploring the key mysteries of the past and discovering a practi- 
cal means of expanding into the universe, and they maintain the 
official secrecy that keeps the question of whether or not aliens 
are here from being answered. 

The Tarcher uses the term “mind control” whereas the Walker & 


535 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Collier does not. The Tarcher alleges that human populations are man- 
aged through the direct control of “military and government” personnel 
who have been “enhanced electrically”. The Walker & Collier seems 
to suggest by contrast that “directional suggestion” is applied to the 
human population as a whole. Both versions suggest in a way consis- 
tent with the UFO lore and Strieber’s own speculations that genetically 
human beings “evolved artificially off planet” are on earth, namely the 
so-called Blonds. But the Tarcher makes it clear it is invoking the tales 
of Blonds walking around the Pentagon by citing “official secrecy” as 
one of their tasks, whereas in the Walker & Collier it is less clear. At 
the same time, even though the Tarcher says that “mind control” is 
reserved for those in the military and in government, Whitley Strieber 
is nonetheless protected from this mind control courtesy of the “tech- 
nological intervention” that occurred in his case. 

Comparing these two versions is useful because it highlights the fact 
that at stake in these texts is less what an independent Master of the 
Key said, but Strieber’s own conception. The reason is that both versions 
demonstrate some level of confusion about what they are trying to say. It 
is not that one is clear and the other altered. Rather, both are somewhat 
convoluted and therefore reflect Strieber wrestling with how control of 
the human world is achieved. In the Walker & Collier, “[ojther worlds 
participate” which is fully consistent with: 

You exist on many levels, the living in their levels and the dead 
in their levels. Man is governed from the radiant level. [...] 

Man is a child. Children govern children with the wisdom of 
children. (35) 

The control of the human world is a function of a broader natural 
order of which human beings are mostly unaware. The Walker & Collier’s 
human beings from “off the planet” are more vague and presented as 
if indirectly helping mankind to evolve by adding challenges to “make 
you strong” (37). Whereas the Tarcher, on the other hand, has a sharper 
view: less a function of a natural order of things than the direct appli- 
cation of “mind control” through technology, members of the “military 
and government” are controlled, and this control is further aided by 
human beings from off-world who “come and go freely”. But somewhat 
nonsensically, Strieber — who does not belong to the government or the 
military — has been protected from this form of mind control to which 
he is not subject. 


536 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


It is pointless to evaluate which version has more merit. Despite 
what Strieber may say, one is neither more nor less correct than the 
other since each represents a version of Strieber working through the 
problems with which he presented himself using the data he thinks is 
legitimate. However, it is possible to arrive at a date for the Tarcher AK 
using this passage. 

The Tarcher curiously seems to refer to those under mind control 
against their will as having been “enhanced electrically”. The language 
is dubious from an editor’s point of view as, if anything, such people 
would be “enhanced electronically” and not “electrically”. 

Leaving that aside, the Tarcher AK language resonates with a pas- 
sage from the Fragmentary Inclusions. The word “enhance” appears only 
once in The Conversation: in the Tarcher AK. But once in the Inclusions: 

Intelligent species are grains of gold in an ocean of sand. You 
are as intelligent as nature can make you, but your brain is still 
filled with potential. It is a resource available to be used. To do 
that, you need to understand how the brain works. In addition to 
creating machine intelligence in the image of your own mind, you 
need to enhance your native intelligence tenfold, a hundredfold. 

To accomplish this, you need help. Your intelligent machines will 
be your partners. Natural evolution has ended for you. Now you 
must evolve yourselves. 

Much of the Fragmentary Inclusions seems a disordered paraphrase of 
statements already in The Conversation. But this discussion of ‘enhancing’ 
our own intelligence is not a part of The Conversation with its prescrip- 
tions for creating machine intelligence in order to predict otherwise 
unpredictable environmental change. 

One could be excused for thinking that for representing a step beyond 
the mere creation of artificial intelligence, this passage and therefore 
the rest of the Fragmentary Inclusions come from Strieber in 2010/2011 
trying to keep his Master of the Key up to date. Indeed, Strieber’s 2011 
novel Hybrids seems to reflect this more cutting-edge transhumanist 
view. 

Nevertheless, in The Coming Global Superstorm, written just before 
The Key, Strieber dances between each conception: 

As we come more and more to understand the mechanics of 
thought, we are also reaching toward the seat of the soul itself, 


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on the point of discovering the all-important difference between 
intelligence and consciousness and, at the same time, striving to 
be within just a few tantalizing years of building an intelligent 
machine. 

When we do this, the melding of man and machine will become 
so intricate that where the human personality ends and the ma- 
chine personality begins will be a diminishing shadow line. 

In response to the problems we face right now, we are going to 
find ways to generate and apply ever greater intelligence. Just as 
the development of more and more powerful engines defined the 
twentieth century, the development of ever more powerful minds 
will define the twenty-first, (ch 22 ) 

Strieber was clearly thinking along these lines in 1999, and so the 
Tarcher AK could well have been from 2000 when Strieber was writing 
The Key. Indeed, one can see now why the Tarcher passage is confused. 
Not only is Strieber trying to excuse himself from accusations of mind 
control with his self-serving answer from the Master of the Key, he 
is also entertaining the idea that his implant has “enhanced” him, as 
reflected by later statements that he was putting his implant to use and 
traveling to other worlds with it. 131 

Provided that Strieber did not add to the Fragmentary Inclusions for 
the 2011 Tarcher, there are other reasons to think that the material dates 
to 2000. Among the Inclusions is this from the Master of the Key: 

Understand your past and what you have lost so that you are 
no longer surprised and destroyed by the cycle that has your 
planet in its grip. Your interest in the past, instilled in you from 
boyhood, should enable you to crack the code of Hamlet’s Mill and 
impart the message that it contains. Why are you so slow? Time 
is running out. 

Of course, the very self-oriented and self-serving element here that 
Strieber’s “interest in the past” was “instilled in [him] from boyhood” 
is strongly suspect. But the Master of the Key says that this interest and 
presumably unique historical understanding of Strieber’s is what should 
enable him to “crack the code of Hamlet’s Mill". 

As noted in a previous section, this emphasis on the book Hamlet’s 
Mill underlines the interest of otherworldly entities in everything Whit- 
ley Strieber does. But it also relates specifically to a period of time in 


538 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


which this book was on Strieber’s mind. He discusses it in his 1997 book 
The Secret School. But more importantly, he spends a significant part of 
his 2000 book The Coming Global Superstorm ‘cracking the code’. While 
The Key declares the constellations of the Zodiac “arbitrary inventions” 
(56), in The Coming Global Superstorm, Strieber deciphers the symbolic 
meaning of each of the Zodiacal signs, explaining how they relate to 
each historical epoch. 

It seems unlikely that in 2010 Strieber would be thinking about 
Hamlet’s Mill, especially since the ‘code’ idea was already forgotten 
by the time of the Walker & Collier. The section Fragmentary Inclusions, 
despite the fact it only appears for the first time with the 2011 Tarcher, 
thus seems to date comparatively early as it closely matches material 
in The Coming Global Superstorm. Because some of the Tarcher AK seem 
to resonate with the Fragmentary Inclusions , 141 if all of the Fragmentary 
Inclusions section was written at once, and if all of the Tarcher AK were 
written together — and these are only suppositions — then the Tarcher 
AK likely reflect an early stage in Strieber’s composition process before 
the proofing process that ultimately produced the Walker & Collier. 


THE COMPOSITION OF THE KEY 

THE WRITING of The Key was an unusual affair. Starting with a page 
of notes, Strieber spent the latter part of 2000 laboriously piecing to- 
gether a conversation that never took place. In a supreme act of remem- 
bering-by-imagining, Strieber sifted and re-sifted the precious ideas 
he was convinced he had only encountered for the first time in Toronto, 
ideas which it has been shown really came from Strieber himself. 

The composition of The Key was something of an ordeal. Writing in 
October 2000 on his website’s message board: 

I’ve been working ever since on a book about this conversation. 

[...] (It’ll be out when I finish it. Don’t ask, it’s terribly hard. I 
black out some times working on it.) [5] 

I am having trouble transcribing a conversation that I had in 
June of 1998 in a hotel in Toronto with the most extraordinary 
person I’ve ever met, at least to talk to. I took some notes, then 
spent the better part of the next two years jotting down bits and 
pieces of the conversation as I remembered them. Then came 


539 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


time to put it all in order, and sometimes the ideas or something 
would affect me and I would blank out or have missing time while 
working. I would work and work, then fiften or twenty minutes 
would be gone and I would be back where I started. It was the 
damndest thing. 161 

Two things have made it hard: first, I am terrified of getting 
something wrong. At first, I was more concerned that maybe 
the event didn’t happen at all. I had no proof. But later, when I 
began to get some of the ideas down, my second concern arose. 

It was obvious that much of this material was totally new and 
original, and on the face of it, just breathtaking. I ceased to feel 
that anyone would think I had dreamed it up myself. It’s too new, 
a lot of it, too original. So then my problem became: what if I am 
adding my own imagination to this? What if I’m messing it up? 

This has turned into the most challenging writing experience 
I have ever had. And I don’t think that the document that is 
produced will be longer than a hundred pages! It amounts to 
a completely new view of man and God, though, this hundred 
pages. 171 

Strieber was engaged in a complex psychological exercise. Remem- 
bering-by-imagining the ‘true encounter’ involved such exertion that 
he would “blank out or have missing time”. He was after all organizing 
his own wealth of ideas at the same time that he was suppressing any 
memory of having said these things before. 

Careful to get the Master of the Key’s ‘words’ exactly right, Strieber 
subjected the text to a standard rigorous proofing process. From Strie- 
ber’s descriptions of proofsheets and bluesheets, it is likely that multiple 
rounds of proofing were performed in November and December, with 
each round implemented into the PageMaker file, then new proof pages 
made. The process was not perfect. But satisfied in the end with the at- 
tention given to his in-house effort, Strieber brought his self-published 
book out at the start of January 2001 . 

Ten years later in 2010, Strieber managed to find a mainstream 
publisher, and so dusted off The Key. According to the best recollec- 
tion of Strieber’s editor at Tarcher, Mitch Horowitz, Strieber first sent 
a PDF of The Key . 181 This would have been made from the PageMaker 
and included the book’s final proof stages. But because PDFs are not 
convenient to work with, Tarcher requested the Microsoft Word file. 


540 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Strieber, forgetting that all the proofing had been done to the PageMaker, 
sent the Microsoft Word file which was only the first completed version. 
Tarcher only lightly edited the material, changing spelling and fixing 
a few typos, perhaps because it had already been ‘published’, perhaps 
because of assurances from Strieber that it reflected his final version 
and/or already had been proofed. 

When discovery of the differences took place, because of the amount 
of psychological denial surrounding the book and its circumstances, 
Strieber had no choice but to panic as acknowledging that both ver- 
sions with their many differences had come from him might have cast 
doubt on the ‘true encounter’ itself. In order to preserve that fantasy, 
and in line with his own feelings of misfortune at the trying situation, 
Strieber decided that his book had been censored by sinister forces; in 
other words, what was happening was more victimization at the hands 
of other people. 

Had it not been for a basic misunderstanding with digital files 
and Strieber’s own forgetfulness, the extent to which The Key was 
an imagined creation might not be as clear today. Had Tarcher gone 
ahead and extracted the text from PDF, or had Strieber remembered 
what the original proofing of his text involved, there would have been 
no competing editions leading his own overreaction at the appearance 
of different versions of his text. Ultimately, it was this overreaction that 
drew attention to the finer details of the text and the reality that the 
Master of the Key’s ‘new vision’ was Strieber’s own. 


WHAT IS THE KEY? 

IF WE SET ASIDE the idea of The Key as a single published account 
of a ‘true encounter’, and instead take everything ever said about the 
encounter including early statements (pre-composition), both versions 
of The Conversation (Walker & Collier, Tarcher), the Fragmentary Inclusions 
(Tarcher), various interviews and so on, and call that corpus The Key, 
then what is The Key? What is its overall purpose? How does it function? 
What does it seek to accomplish? 

1. The Key is a great, sweeping synthesis of a variety of ideas, a 
“view of man and God” [9) that is very much like a Grand Unified Theory 
of the Paranormal. 

2. As we have seen, entirely too many of these ideas came from 
influences on Strieber or were already ideas of Strieber’s own. From 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


themes (e.g. claiming the supernatural for science) down to specific 
terminology (e.g. ecstasy, conscious energy), The Conversation clearly 
represents Strieber’s own synthesis. We can further say it is an uncon- 
scious synthesis: many elements are lifted verbatim from other sources 
and given a different sense as if a deep scouring of the unconscious mind 
had taken place. 

3. The Conversation was a literary and artistic creation, a work of 
deep creativity: the final product was something very unlike and per- 
haps better — more focused, more complex, more sophisticated — than 
Strieber’s usual treatment of the same themes and concepts. Using the 
fictional device of an external event — the ‘true encounter’ — he was 
better able to focus. Strieber imagined what the Master of the Key said 
under the guise of ‘remembering’. 

4. The Master of the Key figure and the external event of the en- 
counter not only allowed Strieber to organize his thinking and synthe- 
size perhaps a lifetime of experience. The Master of the Key figure also 
had a psychological purpose: it vindicated Strieber on three levels: 

a) the sheer fact of the encounter: Strieber is chosen and not 
someone else. It raises the question: why? It is a question that Strieber, 
affecting humility, dodges. But the scenario naturally functions first and 
foremost to raise this question. 

b) in the particulars. Because of much of what is said by this other- 
worldly visitor is what Strieber has warned about, speculated about, and 
asserted, Strieber as a thinker is vindicated, as are his experiences since 
Strieber himself and the positions he takes are the outcome of those 
experiences. 

c) in the self-affirming, even self-serving features of the text. The 
Master of the Key, and tacitly, the higher levels, God — are interested 
in what Strieber is reading: Forbidden Archaeology, Hamlet’s Mill, and 
Meister Eckhart as a child. The fate of Whitley Strieber’s soul after death 
is of special importance (“[t]his is why we have been so insistent that 
you meditate. Otherwise, we will lose you when you die and we don’t 
want that”, 17). Strieber is recipient of messages of world-historical im- 
portance which he is meant to transmit: one system in three (“this has 
been hidden from you”, 27); the meaning of eating the fruit of the tree 
of knowledge (“this is the first time the true story of the taking of the 
fruit of the tree of knowledge has been said since you left the garden”, 
55); and the definition of God as what is missing in us (“[t]his is the first 
time this message is given”, 59). Likewise an interest in history was 
“instilled” in Strieber from boyhood so that he might “crack the code of 


542 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Hamlet’s Mill” and “impart the message” of its solution. Strieber’s life 
and experiences are important: white liquid containing the structures of 
his life was given to him to drink; he was told the date of his death; and 
he was called by a childhood name no stranger should know. Strieber 
even has an implant, uniquely to protect him from mind control. 

The Key thus functions as a healing salve to a life beset with conflicts 
such as Strieber has. For one, he is rejected by intellectual culture; the 
philosophical-spiritual system that The Key presents is a sophisticated 
and complex intellectual construct. Two, his experiences are rejected as 
unreal; The Conversation organizes and explicates those experiences with 
the statements by the Master of the Key confirming them at the same 
time as drawing upon them for their formulation. Three, at the deepest 
level, the fantasy of self is fully explored, including the enlistment of a 
divine agency which not only confers broad purpose on a life, but in- 
sulates one from charges of mind control and shows an interest in that 
life’s tender and intimate moments (“childhood games with Mike”, 17). 

The psychological dimension to the imaginary meeting with the 
Master of the Key is present in everything Strieber has ever said about 
the encounter. In trying to explain who the Master of the Key was, Strie- 
ber offered a variety of possible solutions that worked as moments of 
storytelling, but made no sense as reasonable speculations. Everything 
from the Knights Templar and the Micmac Indians to a drummer in a 
lesser-known Texas orchestra was raised — and these, of course, only 
after deciding that the Master of the Key was not a smallish, child-like 
alien that the children had seen lurking in the woods. On scrutiny, these 
speculations seem not only weak, but spectacularly weak. Given that 
The Conversation already presents a reasonably clear picture of who the 
Master of the Key ‘was’, as shown, one has to wonder why the specu- 
lations exist at all other than to surround the Master of the Key with 
an artificial sense of mystery — and to add a layer of distance between 
Strieber and any awareness of who he ‘was’. 

Similarly, the slipperiness of Strieber’s various attempts to defend 
himself raises doubts. Of course, with that slipperiness came conviction 
and confusion, showing that the Master of the Key encounter is not 
just something of which he has tried to convince the public, but also 
himself. But we see in the shifting accounts of the censorship scenario, 
for example, Strieber systematically eliminate every possible site at 
which alteration of the manuscript could have been done, but then still 
maintain it had been done. Likewise, Strieber could admit to a variety 
of “hyperdimensional” aspects to an encounter that may have lasted as 


543 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


little as fifteen minutes, but simultaneously insist it was an ordinary 
encounter that produced a two-hour conversation, whether it was with 
a kindly humane elderly man or a short childlike creature with “sharp” 
features and a military- style outfit. 

The fundamental question is: would Strieber dream up a book filled 
with important truths in order to vindicate himself intellectually and 
buoy himself emotionally? It so happens that Strieber has dreamt of 
other books full of important truths. 

In a Journal dated October 5, 2012, Strieber detailed an agonizing bout 
of back pain in which Strieber was incapacitated for several days. The 
episode included a hospital visit, an MRI scan, and a home visit by a 
“healer” named Phil, of whom Strieber wrote: 

Phil is worth a whole journal entry of his own. More. Today 
he took me very, very deep in a healing that is going to have a 
powerful place in my life and remembrance, no matter if it helps 
my back or not. [101 

Underneath the otherwise mundane entry, Strieber wrote in the 
comments section: 

The healing session was a big deal. Last night, I started pro- 
cessing the material. At first, when I came back, I had been so far 
that I was shocked to find myself in my body. Phil said he thought 
I’d been OBE. But I had little memory, except that I felt powerful 
emotion. I was glad to have been wherever I had gone, and glad 
also to be back with my family and my life here. Glad is not really 
the right word. It was overwhelming. Later in the evening, I kept 
bursting into tears, just from the sheer power of the emotions. 

In the night, I awoke with the most astonishing realization. I 
am sure you all recall Betty Andreasson Luca’s story. In one of 
her recalls, she mentions being given a small book by the beings 
who were coming to her. She put on a closet shelf. The book later 
disappeared. Now, here is what is so incredible: During the OBE 
yesterday, I read that book. I have not thought about it in years. If 
you had asked me yesterday, I would have said that I had a vague 
memory of it. Now, suddenly, I had it and I understood it. It was 
not long, just a few pages. But it contains core truth. Structural 
truth. I am going to let it rest for a little while, then I am going 
to publish it as a journal. I have recorded it verbally just in case 


544 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


I buy the farm, but the greater likelihood is that you’ll see it as a 
journal in a few days. 

U 

I have a strong feeling that this whole experience was about me 
getting far enough out of myself to reach that book. Phil being 
able to drive us, doing his healing, me being able to go to that 
lovely, sweet place so rich with truth — none of it would have 
happened if I hadn’t had this happen to me. So if its strange, 
out-of-the-blue suddenness was because of some sort of dark 
magic, it certainly backfired. But that’s why I say that the dark 
side is also a servant of the truth, in that with its evil it brings 
also knowledge. The rest is up to us. 

Betty Andreasson Luca gained notoriety in the late 1970s for her alien 
encounters that were written up in The Andreasson Affair. The ‘blue book’ 
was by her account a thin blue book of otherworldly wisdom given to her 
by an alien named Quazgaa in exchange for her Bible. The blue book was 
a book full of light and alien symbols that was taken away from her after 
ten days because she showed it to her daughter. 

In Strieber’s comment, he says that he woke up with the realization 
that during the healing session and the out-of-body experience (OBE) 
that his healer claimed he had (but that Strieber does not seem to re- 
member having) he “read that book”. Further, Strieber concluded that 
the whole reason for his back pain was to send him on his out-of-body 
journey to that book in order to read it. 

What did the blue book consist of (according to Strieber)? On January 
21, 2013, some three months later, Strieber revealed what it said: 

Years ago, Betty Andreasson Luca was given a little blue book, 
which she put on a closet shelf. It later disappeared. Early last 
October, when I was suffering through a health crisis, I came 
into contact with a little blue book. In a comment made after 
publication of my October 5 journal entry, I said that I would 
publish what I remembered of its contents. Subsequently, though, 
things got much worse and I did not keep my promise as quickly 
as I had thought I would. 

These are the contents of the book as I remember them: 

15.000 years ago prior to planetary cataclysm injection of con- 
cepts: soul survival, deity, afterlife. 

10.000 years ago establishment of construction sphinx express- 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


ing path to being harmony. Washing in planetary waters to bind. 

5.000 years ago, injection of resurrection concept. 

3.000 years ago, injection of single deity concept. 

2,500 years ago, transmission of single deity concept to group- 
ing prone to dispersal. 

2.000 years ago, resolution of resurrection concept. 

1.000 years ago, surfacing of soul-coherence methodology. 

That was all it said, and I have added the estimated times the 

events happened. Here is what I think they mean: 

Injection of concepts soul survival, deity, afterlife. Around 
this time, burials began to appear suggesting that the survivors 
believed that the departed was going on a journey. At the same 
time, there was a tremendous planetary upheaval that almost 
obliterated the human species, and did render it extinct in North 
America. Gobekli Tepi was buried at this time. 

Construction of sphinx. If the geologists are right, the sphinx 
was built during the time of Leo, and if Graham Hancock is right, 
the stars of Leo rose behind it during that era. The sphinx is 
a fundamental expression of energetic harmony: what has the 
strength of the bull, the courage of the lion, the wings of the 
eagle and the intelligence of the man is the transcendent being, 
which is re-figured in the 2ist card of the Tarot, the World, which 
shows the four beasts of the sphinx surrounding a figure that is 
both male and female. The active and passive energies have come 
to energetic balance in this objective being that can look down on 
the world from the broad view of the eagle, and understand with 
its human intelligence what the view means, and face the truth 
with a lion’s courage and a bulls determination. 

Injection of single deity concept. This is probably the ap- 
pearance of Akhenaten with his idea of the worship of the Aten, 
the solar deity, as the only god. After he died, his religion was 
suppressed. Moses was probably a priest of Aten, who took the 
idea of the single god into exile with him in the Sinai, and also 
the ethical tenets of the Coffin Texts, which became distilled into 
the Ten Commandments. 

Transmission of single deity concept to group prone to disper- 
sal. Biblical authors then changed the Aten into the fiery cloud 
of Yahweh, and the concept of the single god was exported from 
Egypt into Israel, where it gradually supplanted the old nature 
gods and is now the core concept of western religion and Islam. 


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Israel was a vulnerable place, and the Babylonian Captivity and 
then, in Roman times, the Diaspora, spread the Jews across the 
Mediterranean, and their unique concept of a single god with 
them. 

Resolution of the resurrection concept. Among the earliest of 
human religious ideas is that the body may die and be resur- 
rected. It is first expressed in the story of Isis and Osiris. Their 
ego-bound brother Set kills Osiris, whereupon Isis puts his body 
back together again and he is resurrected. Along with this idea 
comes the notion that there is a process in the afterlife that 
involves weighing the soul to determine whether or not it can 
enter ecstasy or must return to the physical plane. ‘Lightness’ 
is determined by weighing its acts of goodness and compassion 
against those of cruelty and indifference. 

The story of Christ is a repeat of the story of Osiris, with Isis 
becoming his mother Mary instead of his sister. The idea that 
the body will one day be used again is an extension of the ancient 
Egyptian practice of mummification, which in the Christian tra- 
dition became preservation in a coffin, then later, the addition of 
embalming, so that the body will be ‘held incorruptible’ for the 
eventual resurrection of all. 

Surfacing of soul-coherence methodology. I interpret this 
to mean the appearance of the Tarot of Marseilles somewhere 
around the loth Century AD. The Tarot synthesizes the ancient 
way of the soul and shows how to manage the energies of life in 
order to become a sphinx, or transcendent being. 

Anyway, that’s what I remember. [11) 

Strieber’s blue book is a terse set of statements that lays out the 
‘facts’ about human history, including a past civilization, “planetary cat- 
aclysm”, ancient Egypt, and the purposeful injection of a “resurrection 
concept” into human culture. There is mention of “active and passive 
energies”, “soul-coherence methodology”, and even the Tarot. 

The parallels with The Key are exact. In both cases the ‘true encoun- 
ter’ takes shape only after the fact: for The Key, it took on its final form 
in late 2000 during the writing process; for the blue book it was the night 
after the healing session and written up months later. Both involve sleep: 
in The Key, Strieber was awakened in the middle of the night in order to 
have the encounter; for the blue book, Strieber was awakened in order 
to realize he had read it. Both overlap in terms of subject-matter in the 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


ways mentioned. The focus on the Tarot of Marseilles, of course, had a 
place in the ‘true encounter’ of 1998 since Strieber wrote his 2002 book 
The Path based on the Gurdjieff-inspired method of reading the Tarot 
that came to him supposedly after that encounter. 

By his own account, it did not occur to Strieber until the middle of 
the following night that he had read the blue book. In other words, one 
may be so bold as to say, he dreamt it. (And this only after his “healer” 
helpfully suggested he had been having an out-of-body experience when 
he was passed out from pain.) Given the way the blue book’s subject 
matter fits that of The Key down to the distilled statements and om- 
niscient tone, it is safe to say that Strieber’s imagination tends in that 
direction. 


CONCLUSION 


2 016 WAS AN IMPORTANT YEAR for Whitley Strieber. It marked 
the five-year anniversary of the publication of the Tarcher version of 
The Key, the fifteen-year anniversary of publication of the Walker & 
Collier. It also marked the thirty-year anniversary of the writing of his 
bestseller Communion (released in early 1987), a decisive year for Strie- 
ber in which he became aware of his experiences, underwent hypnosis, 
wrote Communion, and ‘came out’ in a MUFON journal. 111 

But 2016 was an important year for another reason. In 2016, Strieber 
released with his co-author Jeffrey Kripal, The Super Natural: A New Vision 
of the Unexplained (another “new vision”), a book which its publisher 
was calling “the most important book on the paranormal since Charles 
Fort’s Book of the Damned in 1919” a year before it was released. 121 In 
this book, Strieber relaunches himself again as public intellectual of the 
close encounter phenomenon, pushing the intellectual community to 
put an end to its shortsightedness, re -formulating (again) his positions 
on the paranormal and the otherworldly, hoping to convince by his 
sheer thoughtfulness and to establish himself as credible. In this he 
is assisted by Kripal, who conveniently assesses Strieber’s claims from 
the truth-neutral position of folklorist and pop culture comparativist. 
Indeed, so truth-neutral is Kripal that he uncritically accepts and repeats 
some of Strieber’s truisms, e.g. that his career was ruined by a South 
Park episode. 131 To date Kripal has failed to critically analyze Strieber’s 


548 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


work — which is perhaps why Strieber calls him ‘the first academic to 
get my work ’ 141 — content rather to treat Strieber’s work as a grab-bag of 
themes with which to highlight his own ideas. 

This is not to say that Strieber’s work is not worthy of academic study. 
Certainly, Strieber, a New York Times-bestselling author with film credits 
to his name, who wrote successful horror novels and developed a whole 
body of work around alleged close encounter experiences deserves at- 
tention. Strieber’s body of work is richly textured, encompassing horror, 
political fiction, religion and spirituality, and is highly distinctive. It 
could well be true that no contemporary writer has had a career like 
Strieber’s, nor produced such a varied output. Likewise, few contempo- 
rary authors would inspire as many biographical questions, especially as 
regards personal psychology and alien abduction. 

But Strieber’s work deserving attention is entirely separate from 
the intellectual credibility of that work. Strieber has said since its 2001 
publication that The Key was his magnum opus, his “great work”, a book 
for which his whole life was preparation . 151 And it does appear to be his 
‘definitive’ statement, his most intellectually ambitious work. 

But what does it say about a body of work — and a life — when its 
centerpiece is a book as fraught with problems as The Key? Even to 
those willing to grant that some close encounter witnesses are neither 
hallucinating nor lying, it seems that one is asked to accept a number of 
improbabilities with The Key. One is asked to believe that: 

Despite the man showing up in the middle of the night at the so- 
called witching hour, asking Strieber to drink a white liquid, telling 
him the date of his death, and the various shifting descriptions from 
four-and-a-half feet tall wearing a military- style outfit to nearly six 
feet tall wearing a tasteful turtleneck — the meeting with the Master of 
the Key was a perfectly ordinary ‘true encounter’ and that ‘he was just 
as real as you or I’; [6] 

Despite the true encounter lasting fifteen minutes to forty-five 
minutes, and despite what was described as a “hyperdimensional” 
communication with choking sounds and growls and words in an En- 
glish Strieber did not recognize — The Conversation represents a faithful 
word-for-word transcription of what was said which takes over two 
hours to read aloud, despite being reconstructed from perhaps a page of 
“squiggles” some two years after the event; 

Despite Strieber reading aloud from the Walker & Collier version of 
The Conversation and quoting from it on his website; and despite the 
differences between Walker & Collier and Tarcher being arguably all 


549 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


editorial — the Walker & Collier was the product of “sinister forces” 
censoring The Key and the Tarcher an authoritative ‘uncensored’ text; 

Despite countless words and phrases appearing in Strieber’s earlier 
work along with countless concepts that are Strieber’s own; despite 
the Master of the Key’s predictions coming from science news of the 
time; despite the Master of the Key’s preoccupations and intellectual 
background aligning with Strieber’s in everything from wicca and Pa- 
tanjali to crop circles and everything in the Art Bell milieu of the late 
1990s on top of Strieber borrowing liberally from Gurdjieff, Talbot, and 
others — the Master of the Key was a real, independent figure who was the 
originator of these ideas. 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER 


IMAGINATION 

For years I have told of being present at the University of Texas 
when Charles Whitman went on his shooting spree from the 
tower in 1966. But I wasn’t there. [...] 

For years I have explained my sudden departure by saying 
that I couldn’t stand the place after the Charles Whitman sniper 
incident. The truth was, I could have remained after that incident. 

It was my secret terror that drove me away. (Four) 

CHARLES WHITMAN’S “shooting spree” took place in August 1966 
when Whitman carried a personal arsenal to the twenty- seventh-floor 
observation deck of the Main Building at University of Texas at Austin 
and shot dead a dozen people, wounding many more. 

Twenty years later in Communion, Strieber wrote about having false- 
ly told others at different times that he had witnessed the shooting. He 
reported the fact in chapter four in a discussion of screen memories, 
suggesting that his memory of being there was a false memory standing 
presumably in place of some other. Later in the same chapter, he made 
a slightly different suggestion: that he told others he had witnessed the 
shooting to explain his “sudden departure” from the university; in other 
words, it had been less a memory than an excuse. 

Of course, so-called screen memories in the abduction literature 
tend to be static, momentary distortions of real experiences that have 


550 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


a basic similarity: to use an example Strieber discussed in Communion, 
someone has a memory of seeing an owl with unusually large eyes and 
later realizes that what he or she really saw was a gray alien. 

But here is Strieber describing the shooting at which he would later 
admit he was not present in a 1985 interview: 

“I had just had a Coke. I was walking from the student union to 
the academic center, which was an open-shelf library near the 
Tower, when I heard a sharp bang that echoed off the University 
co-op across the street behind me. And the reason I am alive 
today is that I didn’t turn around. I thought it was coming from 
the Tower. Maybe I saw some movement out of the corner of my 
eye. All the people in front of me thought the sound came from 
the co-op in front of us, not the Tower behind. 

“The next thing I saw was a little boy on a bicycle coming 
toward me — his head just exploded. I didn’t hear that one. I knew 
then that it was coming from the Tower. The other people all took 
cover that shielded them from the co-op, but left them exposed 
to the Tower. They were all killed, shot. I ran to a little retaining 
wall about three feet high which was near that base of the Tower 
building, about twenty yards from it. And I laid down there. 

“He shot two girls in the stomach right behind me, thirty feet 
away from me. And they were lying there in the grass, screaming, 
begging, pleading for help, trying to crawl along. One girl’s legs 
wouldn’t work. The other one was vomiting pieces of herself out 
of her mouth. And I could smell the blood and the odor of their 
stomachs, what was in their stomachs and their colons. The smell 
was horrible coming out of these poor kids, two young coeds. And 
he did that to get me and this other guy who was hiding behind 
this embankment to come out. I stayed there. I was sick with 
dread, watching them die, knowing that that gun was waiting. 

And the other guy suddenly went out and tried to pull one of them 
away and got shot in the head and killed. Whitman just shot the 
top of his head off. 

“I stayed right where I was for a long, long time— until I saw 
them, with my own eyes, bringing Whitman’s body out. The 
ambulance men came up to me and said, ‘You can come out now, 
he’s dead.’ 

“But I would not move until I saw him.” 

Today, some twenty years later, Whitley Strieber still lives 


551 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


in the shadow of the Texas Tower. He sits with me, the tears 
of those memories burning his eyes, and he is afraid; and the 
rifle of Charles Whitman, striking from its godlike height, is the 
relentless symbol of the terror that he has learned to expect from 
life. (Fear 192-3) 

Even accepting the validity of the category of ‘screen memory’ in 
alien abduction, the above description cannot count as a screen memory 
in any possible way. But it is interesting because it bears the hallmarks 
of many of Strieber’s ‘experiences’: 

1. SELF-ORIENTED. Strieber is uniquely perceptive — the only 
one perceptive enough to realize that the shots are coming from “the 
Tower”. Everyone else gets killed. Strieber then is sought out by Whit- 
man, who tries to lure Strieber out along with a double who is hiding in 
a similar way. Except the double does something foolish that Strieber 
would not do, and gets the “top of his head [shot] off”. Finally, the “am- 
bulance men” come up and report to Whitley Strieber personally that he 
can come out and it is all over. 

2. FACTUAL PROBLEMS. Besides the obvious problem of Strie- 
ber not having been there, one looks in vain for any little boy killed by 
Whitman. The youngest male victim was a certain Mark Gabour, who 
was sixteen and killed inside the building on the twenty- seventh floor. 

3. MULTIPLE DESCRIPTIONS. As with the early accounts of the 
‘true encounter’ with the Master of the Key, there are multiple accounts 
of Strieber’s experience during the Whitman shooting. As usual, the 
accounts are similar, but different in ways one would not expect possible 
were they recollections of the same event. Here is Strieber in a 1983 
interview describing his experience: 

I was right in the middle of it. I ended up hiding under a little 
retaining wall about 2 1/2’ high with another person. Everyone 
near us was shot — not all killed, but shot. As I lay under that 
wall with this other man right there, a woman suddenly began to 
scream about ten feet away from us. She was terribly injured. She 
had been shot in the stomach and she was wailing and bellowing, 
scrabbling along the ground with blood coming out of her. I was 
going to run to her when this other man jumped up, and the 
moment he did, Whitman shot the top of his head off. He had, of 
course, shot the woman in the stomach for the purpose of getting 
us to come out from where we were hiding. He was just waiting 


552 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


there with this gun. I didn’t move. That has haunted me all my 
life .' 71 


In the 1983 account, there was one woman shot to lure Strieber and 
the man out, and Strieber was about to go help the woman but the latter 
beat him to it, and Strieber’s inaction has “haunted [Strieber] all [his] 
life”. In the 1985 account, there were two women shot, but Strieber was 
too wise to go after the women because he knew the “gun was waiting”. 
At a factual level, the two accounts could be construed as belonging 
to the same set of events — in one case Strieber may refer to only one 
woman because she was closer and he was ‘remembering’ her in par- 
ticular at the moment of description. But it is the being ‘haunted for the 
rest of his life’ assertion that throws an attempt at harmonization out 
of joint. Being haunted for the rest of one’s life is a single subjective 
orientation, a personal bottom line that ought to remain true from one 
account to the next. That in one account Strieber claims he is haunted by 
his inaction, and in the other the opposite seems implied — that with a 
snake-like cunning Strieber remained rooted to the ground — suggests 
that there is no real orientation to the event. 

4. VIVID DESCRIPTION. Strieber’s descriptions of his ‘expe- 
riences’, as in the case of the Whitman shooting story, are extremely 
convincing. They are compact in style, economical, and matter-of-fact. 
They also contain vivid, sometimes graphic details expressed with an 
originality of language one could easily think is coming from someone 
reliving an actual event and not the calculated language of a concocted 
story. Of course, given that Strieber apparently never saw the shooting 
and that there was no little boy on a bicycle whose “head just exploded”, 
one can wonder about the imagination of a person who dreams up that: 

He shot two girls in the stomach right behind me, thirty feet 
away from me. And they were lying there in the grass, screaming, 
begging, pleading for help, trying to crawl along. One girl’s legs 
wouldn’t work. The other one was vomiting pieces of herself out 
of her mouth. And I could smell the blood and the odor of their 
stomachs, what was in their stomachs and their colons. 

Strieber has wondered about it as well. In Transformation, discussing 
the Whitman issue again, he wrote: 

Was my whole life a screen memory? I halfway believed that I 


553 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


had been with the visitors nightly for years. That was certainly 
how I felt. 

But there was one incident that could determine for me the way 
a screen memory differed from a real one. 

In Communion I reported, contrary to my earlier assumptions, 
that I had not been present on the campus of the University of 
Texas on August l, 1966, when mass-murderer Charles Whitman 
opened fire and killed fourteen students from the Library Tower. 

For years I’d remembered being there but hadn’t been able to 
find witnesses who could place me. At the time I was writing 
Communion I concluded that this must be another screen memory. 

Since it was my intention to be as honest as possible in Com- 
munion, I carefully reported that I hadn’t been there even though 
the memory was so realistic that I had actually given interviews 
describing the event in detail. I could have simply hidden the 
discrepancy, but I felt that candor was absolutely essential to 
Communion. 

The fact that my memories of the Whitman incident were so 
vivid interested and concerned me. If screen memories could be 
this vivid, then I was lost. I would never be able to understand 
my past. (92) 

Whatever his “candor”, there is something highly disingenuous 
buried in the above. Strieber relates that because he “hadn’t been able 
to find witnesses” to his presence on campus during the shooting, he 
“concluded this must be another screen memory”. But it is incredible in 
the extreme to assert that it is on account of being able to find or not find 
corroborating witnesses that one’s memory of being at such an event is 
true or false. One does not need to consult witnesses to know whether 
one was present at the Kennedy assassination, whether one was at his 
own wedding, or whether one was ever an astronaut. 

The Whitman non-episode is useful in understanding The Key be- 
cause it provides a unique clue to how and why Strieber confabulates. 
To understand it better, one must compare Strieber’s two accounts in 
Communion of why he had invented his story. 

To start, Strieber first puts his elaborate self-deception about the 
Whitman episode under the category of screen memory because it 
excuses him from the strong suggestion that confabulation is his own 
peculiar problem. Screen memories, if they exist, appear to be rooted 
in a kind of hypnotic suggestion: one sees a gray alien, but there is a 


554 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


powerful suggestion given that one is ‘seeing’ something else that is 
similar, a large owl. The suggestion may contaminate the visual image 
to some extent, it may not. The screen memory in abduction is more a 
false belief about a memory that in turn impacts the memory. 

But there is no indication that Strieber was at some sort of basically 
similar event — but with aliens — who then subtly altered his belief 
about what he experienced to correspond to a mass event happening at 
the same time. Instead, what appears to be happening with Strieber’s 
Whitman episode is closer to the other explanation he gave in Commu- 
nion: that he told others he was at the shooting in order to account for 
his leaving the university. 

To understand it we must look at the full context of this second 
explanation in Communion: 

Some weeks later there was a frightening sequel. I was lying 
in bed at my grandmother’s house to San Antonio, reading Time 
magazine. It was late at night and I was about to go to sleep. In 
those days I used to stay with my grandmother when I went to 
San Antonio because my brother, then a teenager, had effectively 
taken over my old room at home. 

Lying in that bed wide awake I had an experience so strange 
and frightening that I remember it to this day with total clarity. I 
was suddenly transported back in time and back to Austin a few 
weeks earlier. I leaped into my car and backed out of the apart- 
ment house parking lot. It was night and the windows of the car 
were closed. I couldn’t see out at all. In fact, I could see nothing 
but the reflection of the inside of the car. I was so blind that I was 
forced to stop. Something approached the car. I was frightened 
to see, peering in the window with its face pressed almost to the 
glass, what seemed almost to be a demon with a narrow face and 
dark, slanted eyes. It spoke to me in a high, squeaky voice, and I 
remember saying that we couldn’t leave the car out in the middle 
of the street. 

Then I found myself in an agonizing struggle. I was at once in 
the car, fighting to keep driving away but unable to overcome 
an urge to get out and go back into the apartment, while simul- 
taneously fighting, in the real world, an overwhelming urge to 
get out of bed and rush outside. I lay on the bed, flopping like a 
fish. Then it ended. Contrary to my impression, I did not move 
an inch. The magazine was still propped up in my lap. I could see 


555 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


my grandmother in her bed in the room across the hall, reading 
quietly. This terrible nightmare had obviously caused not a stir. 

Long into the night I lay with the light on. Toward dawn I slept. 

I believe now that this was a nightmare memory of an attempt I 
made to escape whatever unearthly thing happened to use in my 
apartment in Austin. I was reliving an experience which at the 
time it happened was so unspeakably terrifying that I still don’t 
recall the actual event, only the dream. 

There then began a pattern of running that has persisted in 
my life until the present. A few weeks later I suddenly became 
obsessed with the notion of getting away from the University of 
Texas, out of the United States, of going wherever I could, as far 
away as possible. I fantasized about living in a nice little apart- 
ment in some enormous city. I wanted bustle and bright lights, 
not the sparse Texas landscape and the starry nights. 

I didn’t have much money, so I contrived various means of get- 
ting enough to leave. I obtained a loan from the Minnie Stevens 
Piper Foundation in San Antonio to study film at the London 
School of Film Technique. I earned some money translating 
Seneca’s Thyestes into English and converting the translation 
into a film script for the U.T. Department of Radio, Television 
and Film. I worked as a camera operator. By January 1968 I had 
saved enough money and I left for London. I have never in my life 
been so glad to see the back of a place as I was to see the back of 
Texas. For years I have explained my sudden departure by saying 
that I couldn’t stand the place after the Charles Whitman sniper 
incident. The truth was, I could have remained after that incident. 

It was my secret terror that drove me away. (Four) 

It is clear that Strieber was experiencing terrifying, chaotic events. 
The Whitman non-episode therefore served a dual purpose. It explained 
to Strieber himself his own chaotic emotions and feelings of terror — he 
had been at the Whitman shooting. Second, it served as an excuse to 
others, allowing him to fulfill his true wish of getting as far away as 
possible, out of the country. Had the Whitman story been a simple lie, 
Strieber could have abandoned it immediately after getting his wish and 
making his way abroad. And even if later on he decided to use the tale to 
build his own legend as a writer, discussing it in interviews, there was 
only downside to declaring the whole story false in Communion. 

Strieber evidently felt that he was in danger, and was terrified and 


556 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


confused. The Whitman story ‘fit the facts’. But if Strieber is able to 
invent such a story to ‘fit the facts’ of his own internal emotional state 
and external situation and convince himself and others of it, how could 
one possibly go about separating the imagination from true events 
in Strieber’s life? It is a major problem for Strieber, which he himself 
knows. It is why, on the one hand, he disingenuously suggests in Com- 
munion and Transformation it is an issue of screen memory common to 
abductees in order to minimize it; on the other hand, it is why his books 
are littered with questions about the degree to which his experiences are 
imagined. The ruminations on imagination are, in fact, always strategi- 
cally presented to suggest that Strieber is trying to be objective by asking 
if he is imagining things. But the problem of confabulation for Strieber 
is of much more urgent concern. 

Consider this from Communion: 

In November we closed on a co-op and by fanuary 1981 had 
moved again, this time to our present apartment in the Village. A 
dozen times I have told a story of being menaced by an old college 
acquaintance, whose terrifying appearances and phone calls had 
driven us from our Seventy-sixth Street walk-up to Cos Cob, 
then from there to the East Seventy-fifth Street high-rise, and 
finally to the Village. A part of this myth is the kindly detective 
who hypnotized me and enabled me to identify this individual by 
listening to his voice on a tape. 

Then we put a stop to his game by simply phoning him back 
after one of his vicious calls. But it didn’t happen: none of it hap- 
pened. It’s just a screen memory, like the story of the six weeks 
in Florence that never happened. (After I realized that I had not 
actually been there that long, I began to believe another story, 
that I had gone to Russia and then to France, and been caught in 
the French strikes of 1968-without reference to the fact that they 
ended two months before I crossed France.) But why do I need 
these absurd stories? They are not lies: when I tell them. I myself 
believe them. I don’t lie. Perhaps I tell them to myself when I tell 
them to others so that I can hide from myself whatever has made 
me a refugee in my own life. (Four) 

The way Communion is presented, and by using the concept of screen 
memory itself as a kind of screen, readers are left with the impression 
that Strieber’s ability to invent striking and believable events and to 


557 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


convince himself and others of them belonged to his earlier life before 
Communion, before he faced the reality of his visitor experiences. In the 
passage above, Strieber presents his time in Europe as a series of escapes 
and himself as a “refugee”, and links all this to screen memory. Again, 
one has to ask whether among the accounts of any other abductees there 
are abduction events that go on for weeks and result in these kinds of 
post hoc confabulations. And as to whether Strieber’s perhaps fatal 
tendency to confabulate ended upon coming to grips with his Commu- 
nion experiences, consider what Strieber says about the power of his 
imagination in an interview with Associated Press in 2006: 

I live inside my stories. In other words I see what my character 
sees so vividly it’s like writing a description of a television image 
when I’m working. [S1 

Of course, this could be the bluster and self-promotion of an author 
secretly very satisfied with his imagination for other reasons. But given 
his account of the Whitman shooting, along with numerous other sus- 
pect descriptions, Strieber’s basic suggestion that his imagination has a 
life of its own could well be apposite. Now view his suggestion alongside 
his Author’s Note in The Omega Point: 

From time to time I’ve read things in newspapers, only to look 
again a moment later and find them gone — and then to discover 
them weeks later in the latest edition of the same paper. Sadly, 
these little visions have not involved the stock market tables. An 
annoyance, to be sure. 

The first of these involved the Claude Chabrol film, A Girl Cut in 
Two. I saw a listing of it in the Los Angeles Times in June of 2008 , 
looked up and said to my wife, “There’s a new Chabrol movie. 

We’ve got to go.” I then turned back to the paper to find out where 
it was playing, and the listing had completely disappeared. There 
was no mention of it in the paper at all. So I went online and 
discovered that it had not yet been released. 

Six weeks later, in August, I saw the same listing again. Natu- 
rally we went to the film. 

Is it any wonder that Strieber cannot, for example, tell whether he 
revised his own book? Strieber, of course, would say of a given passage 
in The Conversation that it either matches or does not match his memory 


558 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


of an objective event, namely, the ‘true encounter’. But as we have seen, 
Strieber is not reliable when it comes to this most basic mode of human 
memory. [91 Strieber’s Whitman story had the full appearance of a factual 
description but was in fact a multi-pronged solution to an inner and an 
outer problem. Likewise the Toronto ‘true encounter’ with the Master 
of the Key bears the hallmarks of a confabulation to fulfill an inner and 
an outer need. 

And was this problem with Strieber not clear from the beginning? 
Strieber’s writings and interviews have been riddled with statements 
of his own concern about imagination and confabulation. One finds this 
concern everywhere, expressed for example in 1988: 

TA: The thing that was very noticeable in both books was that 
the more you remembered, the more you remembered, because 
it triggered memories. 

STRIEBER: Yes! But there’s a problem with that. Not only does 
it trigger memories, it also triggers the imagination and you can’t 
tell which is which. Which is horrible [...] [10] 

and in 1997: 

Strieber: Well, I’m pretty sure I did live one. When I first moved 
to New York, I got a Dover Book of photographs of New York in 
the 19th Century. And I was stunned at how familiar it was. And 
I’ve remembered bits and pieces of a life there, but not enough 
for me to say that I feel it actually happened. Because it could 
simply be my imagination playing off the photographs I saw. But 
that journey would suggest that it probably did happen and I had 
returned to that place and time. 1111 

and in 1998: 

It’s a huge question when I’m writing a book because I don’t 
want to put my own dreams and imagination in it. I want to put 
in what really happened. And you know, it’s funny, the books 
always start out: the dots are perfectly connected and it all seems 
just as real as it can be. And my wife Anne reads it, and she’ll say, 
well, when you described this to me it didn’t sound like it does, 
you need to back off on this and make it a little less clear, less 
distinct. So the books are revised again and again, not to make 


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them more clear, but to make them less clear until they have the 
same flavor as my own actual experience did. [121 

and in 2002: 

And I suddenly knew the difference between my imagination 
and what was coming into me from the outside. Because there’s 
a lot of stuff that comes into me from the outside, and it has this, 
it unfolds with the spontaneity as if it’s happening in the world 
around me. With the same spontaneity that a car passes in the 
street or the wind blows the leaf. It’s not something that I feel I 
am in touch with in terms of its creation. Other things that are 
more dream-like, they are. ..They are, uh, my imagination. And 
often they’re pretty elaborate, too. 1 ' 31 

and in 2015: 

Hughes: And you are a hugely creative man, this we know. Do 
you get accused of blurring the line between fiction and fact 
because you deal in both? 

Strieber: In my own mind I do. How do I know? [...] [Hl 

The problem with Strieber and confabulation has thus been hiding in 
plain sight, lost in the factional dispute between skeptics and UFOnauts 
as to whether there is any basic reality to otherworldly experiences in 
general. As is clear from the problems with Strieber and The Key, his 
tendency to confabulate did not cease when his pr e-Communion expe- 
riences gained focus after 1987. In light of the foregoing demonstration 
that the Master of the Key was an invented figure who presented Strie- 
ber’s own ideas, consider some of Strieber’s verbal descriptions of this 
fantasy man: 

The man was extremely happy. He was joyous in a way that 
makes you want to sing even to remember it after all these years! 151 

One thing I will say about him, he was bubbling with joy. He 
was extremely happy. [...] He was quite serious in his presentation. 

But there was an inner core of joy there that was unmistakable. 

And infectious. He was a joyous man. Absolutely. And I felt that 
throughout the conversation. And I felt also the kind of edges of 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


darkness that were there. And sadness. That we were in the state 
that we were in. But I think the inner joy was just an abiding 
truth of his being . [l61 

But I remember he smiled at me with the strangest smile. It 
was like he had read a signal that had come out of me. And there 
was a kind of ferocious love in his face that was almost too much 
for me. It was almost more than I could look at. And I looked away 
from him. And my mind raced to try to understand something 
else to ask that would take me away from this contact. [...] 1171 

I was face to face, I’m quite convinced, with someone who knew 
what the ecstasy of heaven is, who lived in it, and was living in it 
at that moment, presumably, on this extraordinary mission that 
he had undertaken . 1181 

His voice was very steady. It never trembled, but I could feel the 
emotion in it at times . 1191 

And I remember what his voice sounded like, it sounded like 
this. ..He said: NO! Like that. He said: No. All life is potentially 
ecstatic no matter what suffering or sin is involved. All life, child. 

And when he said that word, “child”, I felt a kind of delight come 
over me. And [Strieber laughs] I remembered ‘Be as the little 
children’. And I thought to myself: with him, I can! I can gain the 
enormous benefit suggested by the gospel. I can at this moment 
be as a little child, I have the chance! Oh, what a chance . 1201 

I remember very well the feeling that I had as this was being 
talked about. It was one of hunger. Because I realized that the 
speed with which he was speaking, he spoke like this. I’ll give 
you an example. I would ask a question: why don’t we surrender? 

And the answer would go like — would sound like this: why don’t 
we surrender? Self-will, the illusion that [...] [S. reads very quickly.] 

You see? I can’t communicate the authority with which he spoke. 

But it was like that, it was very quick. He didn’t have to think 
about it, he didn’t say ‘uh’, he didn’t pause. He didn’t consider. Or 
anything like that. He spoke immediately . 1211 

A kind of further proof that The Key is an event of confabulation is 


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that Strieber is able to even abandon his usual strategic hesitancy when 
it comes to the ‘true encounter’ as if to compensate for its lack of reality: 

I have begun my book about the lengthy encounter in Toronto 
that took place in June of 1998 . Unlike the recent event, the reality 
of this one isn’t in question. [...] l22] 

I think in this particular case, I would say that in some — most 
of my other books including Communion, I’ve never been abso- 
lutely sure where the facts. ..where the line is between facts and 
perception. In other words, I can describe what I saw and felt. 

But I can’t tell you that’s what happened. All I can say is that I’ve 
tried to be as accurate as possible in describing my perceptions. 

In this case, in one particular way — there are two ways it’s 
quite different. The first is, the man I met seemed pretty normal. 

He was there. [...] t231 

That is, unlike the other efforts to petition the public with his ex- 
periences in which, as Strieber himself notes, he is always careful to 
‘leave the question open’, when it comes to the ‘true encounter’ with the 
Master of the Key, there was no room for doubt. For Strieber, the en- 
counter was “different”. When challenged even indirectly on the reality 
of the ‘true encounter’, Strieber can be evasive: 

Would you ask him the question that your wife and I alluded to, that: 
is heyou [from the future]? 

I wonder if that would be possible. Because the principle of least 
action, which is a principle of physics, might make it impossible. 

Because that would violate the grandfather paradox. In other 
words, if we knew that for certain, then — I bet you I couldn’t 
ask it, and I bet if I could ask it, he couldn’t answer it. I bet that 
question would never come up even if I had really put my mind 
to it . t241 


In this unusually confused description Strieber seems to want to 
refute the notion he could even ask the Master of the Key whether he was 
in fact Strieber. According to Strieber, the principle of least action — used 
in one theory on how time travel might be possible — might itself “make 
it impossible” on account of the fact that asking would “violate” an 
aspect of a different theory involving the “grandfather” paradox in 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


which time travel is impossible. The argument makes no sense, and this 
is rare for Strieber, who strives for maximum clarity in his presentation. 

In the same interview, Strieber again sidesteps a question that 
threatens to make him consider whether the Master of the Key might 
simply be his creation: 

Could [the Master of the Key] be just manifested into a physical pres- 
ence from perhaps some deep down questions you wanted answered? 

[Long pause] Well, that in itself is a very good question. I don’t 
think that we’re even close to having answers to questions like 
that now. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get there . 1251 

Such evasions suggest that Strieber would rather not confront the 
possibility that he is the originator of the Master of the Key’s ideas. And 
it makes sense: one has to consider after all the tremendous investment 
Strieber has made emotionally in the Master of the Key, as well as the 
cognitive effort involved in both believing in an event that did not take 
place and suppressing memories of all the books and interviews in which 
he expressed ideas that he would impute to the man in Toronto. 

Are the problems with Strieber and The Key explained simply by the 
fact that Strieber is an unusually confused man with an unparalleled 
ability to confabulate? In fact, the answer is both more and less than 
that: like the rest of us, Strieber is also very concerned with himself. 

SELF-SERVING 

AN UNDERCURRENT in Strieber’s body of material over the years 
has been a tendency to insert himself into broader narratives of the UFO 
and conspiracy-theory culture. For instance, an oft-repeated story of 
Strieber’s suggests that his father had foreknowledge of the Kennedy 
assassination: 

When I was a young boy, my father was very connected in the 
Texas political machine. He was connected with John Connally 
and Lyndon Johnson — intimately so. The day before the Kennedy 
assassination he suddenly telephoned me at college and told me 
to get — I was in Maryland at the time — and told me to immedi- 
ately go to Washington to go to my uncle’s house. My uncle had 
been in the Department of State until Eisenhower had left office. 

He was a Republican, and was then a lobbyist but still living in 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Washington — and to stay there until further notice. Of course, 
being a college student I was in the middle of my week of work. 

It was Wednesday and I didn’t do it. The next thing I knew my 
father had chartered a plane and was flying with the rest of the 
family to Mexico when he had a heart-attack. And then the next 
day Kennedy was assassinated. And I have to tell you that after, 
in the years after that, I worked in the State Capitol and I had 
a couple of conversations, completely off the record of course, 
with John Connally, who said there was absolutely no question in 
his mind but that there was more than one shooter there. ‘The 
whole place opened up’ were his exact words, I believe, to me and 
a group of other young fellas working in that capacity there. 1261 

The story, of course, highlights what Strieber has often said were 
his family’s high political connections in Texas . 1271 Elsewhere Strieber 
has talked of having nearly gone into politics and also of being groomed 
for possible recruitment into the CIA, which even if true, seems also to 
reflect Strieber’s vision of himself at his origins as a person of public 
importance. In the account above, two details are particularly slanted: 
one, the suggestion is made that Strieber’s father’s heart-attack is due 
to the stress of the knowledge of what is about to happen. This detail 
does not appear in other tellings of the same story. Two, Strieber says 
at first he “had a couple of conversations, completely off the record of 
course” with Connally, but he then reveals that Connally was speaking 
to a “group of other young fellas”. The impression is created that it was 
Strieber and Connally having a one-on-one, which Strieber waits a few 
beats to correct. The biases in this account are all toward Strieber’s 
self-importance . 1281 

Strieber also famously linked himself to the Roswell incident. Having 
written the novel Majestic about the purported UFO crash, Strieber has 
often explained his inside track into events: 

And I actually had a certain knowledge of this because my uncle, 

Edward Strieber, was close friends with Gen. Arthur Exon, who 
was commandant of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and had 
been stationed there in the Air Materiel Command - they both 
had - in 1947. And General Exon told me in no uncertain terms, he 
said this: he said everyone from Truman on down knew that this 
thing was not of this world within 24 hours of our finding it. [29] 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


As if being tangentially involved in the Kennedy assassination and 
the Roswell incident were not enough, Strieber also witnessed first-hand 
the aftermath of cattle mutilation: 

When I was about 10 years old, I saw a mutilated cow. I have 
never seen anything so bizarre, and neither had anyone else who 
was involved in that incident on a range in South Texas. Whether 
or not it is connected to the close encounter phenomenon, it is 
something that it would be good to find out. I cannot answer the 
question more fully than that. Next question? [30) 

One difficulty with Strieber’s cattle mutilation account is that he has 
also said he saw his “first cattle mutilation” at the time of his visitor 
experiences at his cabin in upstate New York: 

I knew then that the visitors were extremely complex beings, 
not only brilliant, but conscious in a way that I am myself 
striving to be conscious. To, for example, have the compassion 
to give what is really needed, not the pretty little gift of a pat on 
the cheek, but the terrifying gift that challenges your spirit and 
makes it grow. 

And then I saw my first cattle mutilation. It stank, it was 
horrible beyond description, on a friend’s farm not too far away, 
an animal neatly sliced up, it’s teeth grinning horribly, the lips 
having been cut off with a surgeon’s precision. It was lying in a 
mass of feces, which suggested to us that it had suffered its death 
while alive. Its eyes were gone, its vagina cored out. 

And then my son began to report, at the age of seven, that he 
had alien visitors coming into his room. 

I was so helpless then. Not even prayer seemed to matter. But, 
as my friend so succinctly asked me, when I bitched and moaned 
about the cow, had I ever visited a slaughterhouse? [31] 

Another phenomenon Strieber participated in was that of noises from 
the sky. For nearly two decades reports have appeared in the media and 
online of loud disruptions from above, either ‘booms’ or something like 
trumpet sounds. The noises are evidently strange enough and sometimes 
disruptive enough that people have variously believed the end of the 
world was at hand or that automobiles had struck their homes. Strieber’s 
website was reporting about the phenomenon as far back as 1998 with 


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many stories throughout the 2000s and early 2010s, and Strieber in a 
2005 Journal entry wrote about “unexplained booms” in Indonesia. 1321 

In an audio program from February 2012 entitled “Whitley Strieber’s 
Experience with Strange Sounds”, Strieber revealed he had recently 
heard these sounds from above, not once but twice: 

[8:30] Maybe at this point I need to say exactly what has 
happened to me. Because there’s been a few incidents and let 
me just run them down. All of the sounds - or rather, the first 
sound I heard, I heard with Anne. We were in the living room 
and it was in the evening, and suddenly this big noise like a great 
rushing noise filled the air and we looked at each other, and I said, 

‘What’s that?’ And the next moment, the sound of a jet overtook 
the noise and the noise disappeared. And we were unaware of any 
of this at the time. And so we thought, well, it must have been 
something funny that the jet was doing. And we forgot about it. 

[Howe: Meaning that you weren’t aware of all the sounds — ] Not 
at all. We weren’t aware of the strange sounds phenomenon at 
all at the time. [Howe: So approximately what date and time was 
that?] That would have been approximately three weeks ago. 

Again, though Strieber’s website had been reproducing reports of 
the phenomenon for many years, Strieber says he and his wife “weren’t 
aware of the strange sounds phenomenon at all at the time” of the inci- 
dent just a few weeks before. 

In the same interview, Strieber describes another experience with 
noises from above just a few nights before: 

[11:20] About three o’clock in the morning about five nights ago 
I was awakened by a sound. And this was like the rushing noise 
and it also had the drone in it like a trumpet, and it seemed to 
be coming from the air above the house. Of course, I once again 
grabbed for the phone and once again the sound ended. And this 
time I thought to myself: am I being teased by this? Is this some- 
how involved with me on a personal basis? Because quite frankly, 

I’m in a position — and so are you — where if something is going 
on, we might very well get tangled up in it personally in unusual 
ways. If there is some kind of intelligence behind this. So there 
you have it. I know something strange is happening despite all 
the hoaxes and all the denials and so on and so forth. 


566 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


As so often happens to him, Strieber was awakened at three o’clock 
in the morning and the phenomenon immediately dissipated, but not 
before making Strieber wonder whether he himself had a personal 
relationship to it. With these two accounts, Strieber succeeded at expe- 
riencing both sides of the strange sounds phenomenon: the ‘boom’ and 
the trumpet sounds. 

Strieber became a part of the notorious ‘drones’ phenomenon in a 
similar way. In May 2007, six photographs of a strange aerial object 
appeared on the Coast to Coast AM website purportedly submitted by 
a listener. Dubbed a ‘drone’, the strange-looking object subsequently 
appeared in other photographs posted on a variety of other sites in May 
and June. 

The story was championed by Linda Moulton Howe, who reported on 
the story for both Coast to Coast AM and Strieber’s Dreamland program, 
interviewing people who claimed to be witnesses. The images were 
widely decried as a hoaxes, with a variety of amateur and professional 
photographic analysts studying the images and coming to the same 
conclusion. 1331 

Nevertheless, several months after the ‘drones’ controversy had sub- 
sided, Strieber announced in December 2007 that he had been awakened 
in the middle of the night in order to see one. 1341 

We went to bed at about 1130 . 1 was up again shortly thereafter, 
struck with a powerful need to meditate. Then I went back to 
bed, but soon woke up once more. At 2:17 I was writing business 
emails. Shortly thereafter, I went back to bed. There followed 
something that may or may not have been a dream. I’ll get to 
that in a moment. 

I woke up at 4:53 because somebody was clutching two fingers 
of my right hand, which had been dangling off the bed. Anne was 
asleep on the other side of the bed. 

I opened my eyes and saw the lit clock on my wife’s side of the 
bed, and beyond it the window. I had a view of the sky through 
the window on the far side of the bed. The vertical blinds were 
three quarters open. 

Gliding straight toward the house at what appeared to be a 
low altitude was a very complex object that must have been very 
similar to the ‘drones’ that were photographed by a number of 
people last summer. The thing was moving right under and in 
the cloud cover. It was stormy and the clouds were racing, but the 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


object had a stately, gliding motion that was totally unaffected 
by the weather. 

My immediate thought was that it was a drone. I could not 
see any of the upper structures that are visible in some of the 
pictures, but only the body of the thing as it glided toward me. It 
was not far away at all, maybe just a few hundred feet. 

As I got out of bed, I said to Anne, “there’s a drone outside the 
window.” We both got up. As I crossed the room to the windows, 

I grabbed my cellphone in hope of taking a picture. But when we 
looked out, we could see only the low, rushing clouds. 

After a couple of minutes staring at a thickening in the clouds 
and wondering if that was the object, I went back to bed. 

As soon as I put my head on the pillow, and was therefore 
looking out the window at the same angle, I could see the object 
again, this time moving west toward the ocean. I grabbed the 
cellphone and woke Anne up again. We rushed to the window 
and saw nothing. 

When I lay down again, I could see the object. I finally realized 
that it was the angle that was enabling me to see the thing, and 
I went for the cellphone while still lying in the bed. But at that 
moment, the thing moved beyond the edge of the window, and I 
never saw it again at any angle. 

Remarkably, Strieber writes that what he saw “must have been very 
similar” to the so-called drones. This is not the same as saying that it 
“was similar” or “looked similar”. Again, this is an instance where one 
expects a statement of fact from Strieber, but instead gets a conviction. 

One could easily interpret his account as one in which entering 
a half-dream state with drones on his mind, Strieber ‘saw’ one, and 
subsequently, every time he woke up and got out of bed to photograph 
it, becoming awake in the process, it was ‘gone’. As Strieber writes in 
the same entry: 

So this experience actually crossed waking and dream. [...] 

When I saw the drone, I was possibly in yet another universe, 
different from this one. 

Strieber’s Journal entry also described his visions of himself that 
night in other universes. Notably, however, earlier that evening, accord- 
ing to the entry, Strieber had been reading The Key: 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


That evening, I had felt a compulsion to read the Key. I don’t 
often read it, so this was unusual. But I couldn’t seem to put it 
down, and kept reading and re-reading the same passage. The 
next morning, I opened the book again, and found that the pas- 
sage had a great deal of meaning in view of what had taken place. 

Strieber went on to explain: 

Now to the part of the Key that I read with such eagerness the 
evening before, and pointed out to Anne the next morning. 

The passage was this, from pps 34-35: 

Have you traveled to other worlds? I belong to many worlds. 

Are you from another planet that is like ours? I am human. 

What’s it like, going to another planet? The details from world to 
world can be very different, but the basic laws of reality remain 
the same. 

I think that this passage is actually talking about being in 
a state that we have not realized even exists. When he says, ‘I 
belong to many worlds,’ I believe that he is really saying that 
he is conscious of many lives unfolding at the same time, and I 
find that concept remarkable. However, I know that it’s possible 
because I have now done it. 

The passage quoted by Strieber in this 2007 entry was from the 
Walker & Collier version of The Conversation. It is from one of the larger 
parts of the text where Strieber in 2011 said ‘censorship’ had been done. 
Here Strieber quotes from the supposedly altered passage and gives an 
interpretation, not noticing, of course, that any changes had been made. 

Perhaps most incredible among the cases of Strieber inserting him- 
self into larger events is that of 9/11. In this account from a 2006 Journal, 
Strieber heard of the first plane impact and knew before anybody else 
that both of the Towers would collapse: 

I was half asleep in bed in San Antonio when I suddenly heard 
on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I 
threw off the covers and headed for the TV, saying to Anne that I 
thought I?d heard that a commuter plane had hit one of the twin 
towers. 

My immediate thought was that the tower might come down. I 
had two reasons to fear this: the first was that, when the towers 


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were being built, I had flown over them in the company of an 
engineer who was working on them, who happened to be my 
seatmate on a business trip. When I commented on how I had 
read that there was so much wire in them that the construction 
job had actually driven up the price of copper, he merely muttered 
that he wouldn?t want to work in one of them, not ever. 

I was surprised, and naturally asked him why. ?They?re 
deathtraps,? he said. He went on to explain that they couldn?t 
withstand much force because the curtains were load bearing, 
meaning that the outer walls bore the weight of the structure, or 
part of it. 

He said that if a jet like the one we were in were to hit one of the 
towers midway down, it would almost certainly collapse. Given 
that one of LaGuardia airport?s main approaches goes down the 
Hudson and doglegs around the tip of Manhattan, many hundreds 
of flights a week would be taking turns around the towers. I know 
statistics: I realized that the probability of an accident was there. 

I was so struck by this possibility that I wrote a story about a 
747 crashing into the towers and causing both of them to fall over. 

Where that story is now, I don?t know. It?s been at least 30 years 
since I laid eyes on it. 1351 

Thus Strieber not only knew the precise cause that would be even- 
tually be given for the collapse of the Towers — he had even written a 
story about it. 

The second reason given in the 2006 Journal why Strieber thought the 
Towers would collapse was that he had been told by a national security 
insider that all of the buildings of the World Trade Center and many 
important buildings around the country were wired for demolition in 
the event of foreign invasion. The story has competing versions. First, 
from the Journal: 

The second thing that crossed my mind was that somebody 
had told me at some point that buildings in which US intelli- 
gence agencies have secret devices and classified information are 
routinely mined, so that they can be demolished if there is any 
chance that the secrets might be compromised. Understand, I 
don?t know this for a fact, but it certainly seems possible that at 
least the areas where such secrets are kept would be capable of 
being destroyed if necessary. 


570 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


I turned on the TV and saw smoke and flame pouring out of the 
first tower. My heart just broke, to think of all the suffering that 
must be going on in that structure, and the agony of friends and 
family on the outside. Then the second plane hit and I thought, 

?this isn?t an accident.? Then I thought of the National Security 
Agency assets in the Twin Towers and the CIA establishment in 
Building 7 of the complex, and I felt that it would not be long 
before they all came down, Building 7 included. 

It seems somehow unlikely that Strieber would have known on the 
morning of September 11, 2001, of “National Security Agency assets in 
the Twin Towers and the CIA establishment in Building 7”, and even 
less likely that Strieber could be confident of the collapse of Building 7 
before it happened. 

Another version of the story appears in a July 2016 comment on his 
website. Strieber wrote: 

I have often wondered what actually happened to the towers, as 
have we all. Years ago, I knew some people on the Senate Intel- 
ligence Committee. I happened to mention to one of them that I 
was going to the Windows on the World restaurant one night. He 
said that he wouldn’t do that, because the towers had extremely 
sensitive intelligence equipment in them, and were mined so that 
they could be brought down if control of them was ever lost to 
terrorists or a foreign power. 

I went to the dinner, but it was one of just two times I was in 
the towers. I found them terrifying, you can be sure. Looking 
at the way they disintegrated, I have thought that the jet fuel 
might have set off the system that was designed to destroy them, 
making it look as if they were intentionally imploded. Building 
3, which had the same system in it, I am sure, as it housed a CIA 
post, was intentionally imploded. 1361 

Compare this account to one given by Strieber in May 2013: 

Some years later, after I wrote Communion and had a few con- 
versations with some intelligence types who were trying to figure 
out where I was coming from, I guess, one of them mentioned 
in passing that all US facilities containing sensitive equipment 
and information were mined so that they could be destroyed at 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


a moment’s notice. (We were talking about the visitors entering 
my house, and I said something like, ‘what if they show up in 
the White House?’, which elicited the comment.) The WTC never 
came up in that brief conversation, but when I saw the way the 
buildings dropped in on themselves, I thought back to it. [37) 

In the 2016 account, Strieber was told specifically to avoid the World 
Trade Center by someone on the Senate Intelligence Committee. In 
the 2013 account, Strieber was talking to an ‘intelligence type’ and the 
World Trade Center never came up. It seems that whatever the details, 
the important thing is that Whitley Strieber was tangentially related to 
events and had some sort of foreknowledge or special insight into them. 

After the 9/11 attacks some skeptical of the official account alleged 
that anomalous trading was being done in the lead-up to the events 
including an unusually high volume of put options being bought on 
airline stocks. Not to be left out, in yet another 9/11-related tale Strieber 
says he himself observed strange trades being executed in the days prior 
to the event. 

The fact of the matter is that there was activity in the stock 
market prior to 9/11. I saw it. I was actually an S&P trader at 
the time. And on Thursday before 9/11, the markets were acting 
oddly. I was trading S&P futures, short-term day trading them. I 
saw that there was something funny. I couldn’t put my finger on 
what it was until Friday when I looked up the short interests and 
it was rising dramatically in the S&Ps and I couldn’t figure out 
why. So I didn’t trade because I don’t trade when there’s some 
big factor in the market that I don’t understand. Friday came 
and Monday came and the short interest was even larger, and so 
I stayed out. And I was actually getting up on Tuesday morning, 
thinking about possibly doing some trading that day when the 
Twin Towers were hit. So I knew that at least from Thursday 
powerful interests were aware of the fact that something was 
wrong. Otherwise they wouldn’t have been putting in that short 
interest. 1381 


Thus in a story told years after the fact, Strieber presents himself as 
perhaps unique in witnessing strange trades in real time and finding 
them suspicious. 

It appears that like all of us, perhaps, Strieber is the star of his own 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


movie and this shapes his accounts. 1391 In his 9/11 anecdotes, Strieber has 
a relation to events, however small, and knowledge about the situation 
as it unfolded that others did not have, just as he did in his 1985 account 
of the Whitman shooting. But Strieber’s tendency to place himself at 
the center of events can be even more pronounced. In his 2016 book The 
Super Natural, Strieber seems to say that he painted the image on the 
cover of his bestselling Communion: [ch 6] 

Sometimes when Anne was sleeping or distracted or her face 
blossomed with pleasure, I would see in it a flickering shadow 
of the great-eyed being I’d painted for the cover of Communion. 

Because elsewhere in that book Strieber writes of the image “[he’d] 
had painted for the cover of the book” (ch 2), the statement above could 
be the result of a typographical error. But the possible slip can also be 
viewed alongside another blurry claim of Strieber’s to have translated 
the Betty Andreasson Luca ‘star language’. In Appendix Three in Trans- 
formation, it is stated that Leonard Keane made the ‘discovery’ that her 
glossolalia was ancient Gaelic and did a translation, though improbably 
Strieber also said: “I have listened to the original tapes and found that 
he did a careful and accurate job of transcription”. 

That Keane undertook the translation is confirmed in a 1987 talk 
Strieber gave in San Francisco: 

It turned out that an investigator, a rather obscure investigator 
named Leonard Keane thinks that he may have a handle or a 
line on this in his very tentative conclusions. [...] [28:35] What he 
found was, he could translate Betty Andreasson’s star language 
because it wasn’t a star language. It was Gaelic. 1401 

But in some accounts, Strieber has variously said that he translated 
it himself or that he was first to recognize it was Gaelic. An example of 
the latter: 

I’m going to sort of change to a different subject right now, 
which is the subject of the star language. And this is the language 
that you spoke under hypnosis that I recognized actually when I 
saw it written in Ray’s book and began to pronounce it myself as 
probably Gaelic. And I found a chap who could translate this. And 
he translated it. 1411 


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His inflated role even appears in one of his wife’s accounts: 

When Whitley published Transformation, he wrote down some 
of the “star language” that Betty Andreasson had heard “aliens” 
speaking during her UFO encounter. Using a Gaelic-English 
dictionary that he found in a dusty old bookstore downtown that 
was going out of business, he translated it as “Children of the 
Northern peoples, you wander in eternal darkness.” This espe- 
cially interested him because the Irish (whose original language 
is Gaelic) are famous for seeing fairies, elves and “little folk.” In 
his book “Passport to Magonia,” Jacques Valle guessed that these 
were other names for what we now call “aliens .” 1421 

Finally, Strieber’s tendency toward self-aggrandizement surfaces in 
a most dramatic way in a comment made during a subscribers-only pro- 
gram in which he seems to suggest he was responsible for summoning 
the visitors into his life: 

John Dee was perhaps the last of the great scientists of the old 
tradition. The tradition that looked to science as a way of finding 
balance and harmony with nature. Which is why his work today 
seems so bizarre and esoteric. Our minds have changed so much 
that now we look to science as a way of exploiting nature and it 
makes him seem peculiar and esoteric and strange. And these 
abilities that the scientists of that time had such as the ability to 
tickle the brain between worlds and open up briefly windows into 
parallel universes which is why he could conjure these beings 
that he saw. I mean, I can do it, too, which is what the whole 
body of my work is about. And I think those of you listening to 
this probably are already aware of the fact that I actually do know 
what I’m doing in that respect. Rather than — it was never an 
accident and it was never as unplanned as it has been made to 
seem in my public life . 1431 

When the entire Communion narrative was built on the surprise and 
even trauma of Strieber’s ‘abduction’ and the complete mystery as to 
what the visitors represented, here Strieber is saying that it was “never 
an accident” and “never as unplanned as it has been made to seem” in 
“public”, evidently in his writings including Communion. This shows a 
willingness to contradict his entire body of work for a moment of in- 


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creased self-importance. Aligning himself with John Dee, a wizard and 
summoner, is more important than consistency with his narrative. 

One gets the sense that the farther one travels away from actual 
events and the demands of factual consistency, the more self- oriented 
and self-important Strieber’s narrative becomes and the more the fanta- 
sy of self is explored. Strieber’s tendency to be self-oriented is given free 
rein in the Toronto encounter, with his special ‘role’ in the coming age 
having a primary emphasis in the earliest accounts, and with the ‘true 
encounter’ corpus as a whole being concerned with what books Strieber 
was reading, his childhood memories having a special place, unique and 
important messages being delivered to him alone, and overall, Strieber’s 
own speculations being presented and validated by the Master of the 
Key. The self-oriented and self-serving aspect of so many of Strieber’s 
‘experiences’ clearly fulfills some sort of need. 

EMOTIONALITY 

STRIEBER’S EXTENSIVE BODY OF WORK offers a unique 
window into the mind and life of its creator. His many books, interviews, 
and Journal entries allow one to follow the course of Strieber’s thinking 
over decades, and more than ten years of weekly audio programs allow 
one to listen to Strieber’s voice and inhabit to a considerable extent the 
emotional world of Whitley Strieber. 

But there is a further unique quality to Strieber’s body of material, in 
addition to its considerable extent: its unusual, even excessive degree of 
openness. On the one hand, it is reflected in what Strieber takes credit 
for as his own “candor” when it comes to presenting even damaging 
details such as the problems with the Whitman shooting account. But on 
the other hand the openness seems to go further, and can be unknowing 
with Strieber giving away more than he realizes. 

One sees this unusual openness in his short story, Pain. According to 
Strieber, it was written just as he was becoming aware of his Communion 
experiences. For the first quarter of the story, Strieber-as-narrator goes 
on a long digression into Frazer’s The Golden Bough, the Roman Empire, 
the Kennedy assassination, environmental disasters, Nazis, and UFOs. It 
is especially with this last topic that one sees Strieber’s unconscious on 
display, with the involved discussion of these various topics taking place 
long before the antagonist, Janet O’Reilly, is even introduced. It amounts 
to a ten-page-long Freudian slip. 

Strieber has suggested that his early novels such as The Wolfen and 


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The Hunger show him working through unconscious material, in partic- 
ular, his otherworldly contact with the Grays and the Blonds. Naturally, 
all writers draw on the raw material of experience, but the gratuitous 
transparency in Strieber’s work goes beyond the conversion of past 
personal experiences into new narratives. 

In a case where a literary Freudian slip made by Strieber is laughable, 
in his novel 2012: The War for Souls, the main character Wiley Dale is a 
writer who is plainly a version of Strieber himself, as Strieber admits. At 
the same time, Strieber puts into the mouth of his Wiley Dale counter- 
part that he wants to fuck a certain character named Marla: 

Henry lifted his arm, drew back his sleeve, and looked at his 
watch. “I’m relieved to say that we’ve come to the end of our time, 

Wiley. You can reschedule with Marla.” 

“Can I fuck her, too?” 

“If you want to continue treatment with me, no.” (Four) 

Marla Frees, a celebrity psychic and an attractive woman, became 
a guest host on Dreamland in 2007, the same year Strieber’s novel was 
published. How could a married man unconsciously entertaining an 
attraction to another woman use her real name in a published novel? 
And with a main character modeled on himself asking, even jokingly, 
if he could fuck her? Strieber certainly seems to have said more in this 
novel than he intended, though incredibly he would also claim that Wiley 
Dale was his wife’s ‘vision’ of him. 1441 

In the 1985 interview with Douglas Winter, Strieber says, “I learned 
how to be naked before my readers in the sense of being exactly as I 
really am inside” (202). While Strieber may seek to take credit for “na- 
kedness” before his readers in his early fiction, and then later for his 
“candor” in his close encounter accounts, one gets the sense that there 
is something else behind the superabundance of disclosure that marks 
Strieber’s work. 

After all, Strieber comes off as an emotional and shaken man. While 
extraordinarily well-spoken when it comes to the interpretations he 
wishes the public to adopt about his experiences, when it comes to 
describing those experiences Strieber can be a bit of a stammerer. There 
is a strong level of emotionality just under the surface that seems of 
a piece with his frequent expressions of feelings of victimization and 
his recurring trips into self-pity in his Journal and in interviews. In his 
Report on Communion Conroy writes of Strieber’s mother’s recollections 


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of him as a child: 

If Karl Strieber was somewhat sensitive about how others saw 
him, it appears that his son Whitley could be fairly emotional at 
times, too. Strieber’s account of himself as crying at not being 
able to join his friends being photographed surprised me some- 
what, inasmuch as those of us of the male sex in our culture are 
generally trained not to cry, and rarely allow ourselves even to 
do so, even in childhood, much less admit having done so. That 
comment is borne out by an observation his mother made of him, 
though, in her interview with me. 

“A lot of things were funny about Whitley when he was growing 
up,” she said. “For one thing, I never saw a kid cry like Whitley. 

He’d cry at everything in sight.” (55) 

An elderly woman and mother of fully-grown children at the time of 
the interview, Strieber’s mother seems to have been looking back across 
the span of years and recounting with a Texan economy of detail one 
of her son’s most distinguishing and memorable characteristics. But 
Strieber’s emotionality did not end with the passage into adulthood. 

In a 2007 Dreamland interview widely noted in the blogosphere, 
listeners got to hear Strieber involved in an unusual spat with blogger 
and writer Daniel Pinchbeck. The interview was a trainwreck. It began 
with Pinchbeck sounding irritated and vaguely hostile to Strieber, and 
with Strieber less interviewing Pinchbeck than eliciting answers which 
he could then embroider with points from his own perspective. Soon 
a petulant Pinchbeck took umbrage at one of Strieber’s suggestions, 
namely that mankind was facing a “die-back”, charging Strieber in turn 
with spreading negativity and perhaps being controlled by evil forces. 

Strieber: [...] I see a tremendous decline and die-back of the 
human species taking place over the next hundred or a hun- 
dred-fifty years. 

Pinchbeck: OK, so I just want to point out that’s your shadow 
projection. 

Strieber: It’ll happen. 

Pinchbeck: I just want to point out that you don’t know that’s 
gonna happen, and it’s actually just your shadow projection. 

From where we are now, there’s enough food to feed the people 
on the earth. It’s not necessary that that’s going to decline to an 


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extent that’s going to lead to huge die-off by 2012. So what you’re 
doing, you’re putting out there your shadow projection. Where is 
that coming from? 

Pinchbeck continued to accuse Strieber of poisoning the earth’s 
consciousness with his “shadow projection”, linking Strieber’s negative 
outlook to possible influence on him by the ‘visitors’: 

And I also find it interesting that you would have that perspec- 
tive considering your ‘communion’ with entities who from my 
perspective are not wholesome and may not be looking forward 
to our best interests on this planet. 

In one heated and confusing exchange: 

Strieber: You tell me the entities are supposedly negative when 
you don’t know jack-shit about those entities because you’ve 
never had any contact with them at all. 

Pinchbeck: I read Communion several times — 

Strieber: You read it, but you didn’t read it. 

The strange and tortured pathos of the conversation combined with 
the subject-matter of two competing fantasies about 2012 made it all but 
incomprehensible. Pinchbeck, using a millennial’s uptalk at the end of 
most of his sentences, charged Strieber with what was perhaps the most 
terrifying claim that could be laid against him personally: that he was 
not in charge of his own mind. Strieber, deeply wounded, responded: 

Strieber: [...] We’re not friends anymore, we will never be. We 
never really were. I literally could not disagree with you more 
profoundly as you propose what looks to me like a kind of a 
miserable fascism on the human spirit. And a future that is enor- 
mously dreary even in the unlikely event that it should unfold. 

Pinchbeck: By the way, Whitley, I just want to say that I’m 
capable of having an argument with somebody and profound 
disagreements with somebody and still considering them friends. 

And that I do really appreciate you having me on the show. 

Strieber: Well, I’m glad you appreciate being on the show. But 
I’m telling you right now when you attack my very being and my 
spirit by saying that I’m in league with evil entities as you did 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


say, that’s not, it’s not possible to maintain a friendship under 
those circumstances because this is so outrageously untrue. And 
for those of you who are subscribers to this website, who listen 
to our meditations, and who are involved in this, you’ll know 
how unfair and outrageous this attack that this man carried out 
on this radio program was. It’s just disgusting. And ignorant. 
Absolutely ignorant. 

Strieber’s response to this onslaught in the end was thus to rather 
pathetically declare that Pinchbeck was not his ‘friend’. The oversen- 
sitivity and emotionality in Strieber is visible elsewhere in his output. 
Strieber routinely rails against those he feels who have treated him 
unfairly, and in his books, Journal, and interviews, Strieber seems to 
be constantly nursing his wounded feelings. Whether it is Matt Lauer 
from The Today Show or Larry King , 1451 Strieber returns again and again 
to those times when he feels he was victimized, though in the case of 
certain interviews, one is at pains years later to see how they were overly 
harsh. Part of Strieber’s personal mythology is that as a young boy he 
was involved in some form of military-related experimentation on chil- 
dren using high stress. And, indeed, it is indisputable that Strieber has 
been subjected to ridicule, for example by comedian John Hodgman at a 
TED talk recently replayed on National Public Radio , 1461 an event which 
did not escape Strieber’s notice and to which he has repeatedly returned. 
But while Strieber’s emotionality and oversensitivity may be related to 
high stress in childhood, to contact experiences, and to having been 
subject to public ridicule, these do not exhaust the childishness and the 
child-likeness of Strieber. 

A number of audio programs are available on Strieber’s website in 
which Strieber reads from his own works including his short stories. Not 
a trained voice actor, Strieber nevertheless tries to imitate his characters’ 
voices and provide sound effects as indicated by his texts. The result is 
embarrassing. But it is not because Strieber is attempting a performance 
with poor results. Rather what one hears in Strieber’s voice as he does 
his own voice acting is a child-like quality, as if the inner world of the 
imagination were fully on display. Children at play with dolls or action 
figures in imaginary scenarios are able to disappear into themselves 
even in the presence of adults. But in adults this type of interiority is 
never seen, except perhaps when one is walked in on by another person 
by accident. 

In Strieber’s case, one gets the sense the evacuation of imagination 


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from inferiority that comes with adulthood never occurred. That is, the 
connection to a richly developed inner world of imagination that is 
lost with adulthood was not lost for Strieber. Unlike other writers who 
undertake to imagine, Strieber is taken by his imagination. Strieber is 
committed to his imagination as this is also a commitment to his own 
inferiority. 

Ultimately, it is Strieber’s commitment to his own inner life that best 
makes sense of the often obvious inconsistencies and contradictions of 
his accounts. Many have criticized some of the more superficial inconsis- 
tencies in his work, ones better explained as Strieber stressing different 
aspects of an experience at different points in time. But when it comes 
to the more self-aggrandizing absurdities or to complete inventions like 
the Toronto ‘true encounter’, one gets the sense that Strieber is willing 
for these to enter full public view because he is at bottom committed to 
their life in his own inner world. Just as he claims experiences live on 
in eternity as “works of art”, Strieber seems to entertain a variety of 
fantasies, great and small, because in the life of the imagination they 
are living things with inherent value. One can hear this devotion to his 
inner life behind Strieber’s words when he says: 

And what I’ve ended up with is what I think is the most — one 
of the most beautiful and important and valuable messages the 
world has ever seen. 1471 

The slip between “the most” and “one of the most” reveals Strieber’s 
true feelings about these gems of his inner experience. But forever keep- 
ing one foot in an inner world has also made Strieber into something 
of a bumbler and rather foolish: he is prone to set fires , 1481 afraid of 
puppets , 1491 and by his own account he is ‘easily hypnotized ’. 1501 Yet one 
should not think Strieber all fool. Strieber also regards himself as a man 
of public importance, a bearer of world-historical messages, or as he has 
called himself: a “soldier ”. 1511 As a combatant in the public arena, he can 
be very slippery and very strategic. 

STRATEGIC 

WHATEVER THE DISTORTIONS caused by Strieber’s imagina- 
tion and his emotionality, Whitley Strieber is a highly intelligent man 
capable of making subtle distinctions and approaching an intellectual 
problem from many directions. Thus when Strieber decides to dissim- 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


ulate or when he takes up a position to defend himself or to advance an 
idea he can be strategic, even slippery. One need only look to Strieber’s 
statements about the extent to which he is religious: 


Strieber as non-believer 

Strieber as believer 

I’m not really much of a believer. 1521 

I am not a conventional Christian, 

but I am certainly a believer in the 

intelligence and compassionate 
insights of Jesus, and the meaning 
of his resurrection. (Omega, Note) 

I’m very dubious about the idea of 
God personally. 1531 

I suspect that’s why I feel as if God 
was staring me in the face every 

moment that I’m alive. I think it’s 

literally true. (Rep 345) 

If anything, I’m an atheist. 1541 

So, if some time traveler came back 

with proof that Jesus had never 

existed, it wouldn’t shake my faith 

at all. Nor does the corruption of 

Islam shake my faith in the word of 
God that sifts through the Koran like 
a sublime perfume. In fact, nothing 
shakes my faith. Nothing can. Faith 
is far deeper than belief, and the two 

should not be confused. 1551 

I’m about as religious as Christopher 

Hitchens. 1561 

You know, I’m a very faithful person 
and I swear to you by the religion in 

which I believe that I did not. 1571 


Allowances must always be made for views changing over time, and 
even shifting perspectives from moment to moment. But Strieber is also 
the man who named his most famous book Communion, a book which 
could be regarded as a work of Catholic mysticism. Strieber quotes from 
the gospels constantly in his non-fiction and his Journal entries, and 


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routinely uses bible quotes to introduce chapters or sections of his novels. 
The Walker & Collier edition of The Key was dedicated to “the prophet 
Daniel, and the great vision he left for our time”. Strieber can say “I’ve 
never not been a Catholic”, and his own visitors-theology has been so 
heavily influenced by Catholicism that he might one day be seen as a 
Catholic intellectual theorizing contact. Indeed, so committed is Strieber 
to his Catholicism that he can even equivocate about the Catholic child 
abuse scandal, writing: “But I really wonder if the scandal is as deep as 
it has been portrayed”. 1581 

This ability to dance for different audiences and to effortlessly play 
between versions of his self-image was visible as far back as Communion, 
and it did not escape the notice of critics. Strieber presented himself in 
Communion as an aloof intellectual whose secular worldview was vio- 
lently overthrown by the enigmatic experience with the visitors. But as 
Conroy detailed in his Report on Communion, Strieber had an unusually 
strong interest in aliens and the occult at a young age. 1591 And later in 
life Strieber not only participated for thirteen years in the Gurdjieff 
Foundation doing meditation and studying the Tarot and other esoteric 
ideas, he went on The Oprah Winfrey Show to defend wicca and even said 
he had practiced as a “witch” in his 1985 interview with Douglas Winter. 
Strieber’s story Pain written near the start of his Communion experiences 
shows a set of intellectual concerns that put him at far remove from the 
category of “average skeptical intellectual”. 1601 Yet, for all the obvious- 
ness of these contrary tendencies, Strieber still presented himself as a 
middle-of-the-road intellectual in Communion even when mentioning 
Gurdjieff, the Tarot, and so on. 

Strieber is thus able to position himself in complicated ways in order 
to answer or forestall criticism. But this can lead to absurd, objectionable 
results. As noted previously, in audio commentaries on The Key, Strie- 
ber discusses certain passages of The Conversation that clearly involve 
Gurdjieffian concepts and vocabulary, but then names Gurdjieff as if 
supporting evidence for the statements of the Master of the Key. It never 
occurs to Strieber that it should do the opposite: i.e. suggest that Strieber 
wrote The Conversation by filling the Master of the Key up with Gurdjieff. 

And Strieber’s slipperiness can be even worse. In an interview from 
2011, Strieber is asked about a sub-narrative from The Conversation in 
which a ‘war’ with Mars took place in distant prehistory. True to form, 
Strieber offers two outside anecdotes in support of the Master of the 
Key’s scenario without realizing that critical parts of these two anec- 
dotes also appear verbatim in the text: 


582 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


There’s a portion in here where he was telling you about your victors 
are effectively holding you captive. I’m trying to figure out or get my 
head around who are the victors, who did we go to war with. Can you 
flush [sic] that out a little bit as far as what that meant? 

Well, I can’t say what he thought it meant. I can say what 
it would mean, what it might mean to me. [...] [43:10] In 1985, 
October/November of 1985 , 1 was discussing the Viking image of 
the face on Mars with Richard Hoagland, Greg Molnaar, Vince 
DiPietro, and a number of others. One of us, I don’t know which 
one, it wasn’t me and it wasn’t Richard, said in this internet relay 
chat we had — the internet was in its infancy then and it was a 
chat system I think that belonged either to NASA or to one of the 
universities that one of the participants in the conversation was 
at, said something extraordinary, he said: Mars was murdered. 

He pointed out that the DNM [sic] pyramid had been entered 
at its base. There was a crater at its base that was an intrusion 
point. And you can see on the opposite side of the pyramid where 
something has caused it to collapse in on itself. 

Now I’m going to go forward a bit. And I’m just piecing things 
together here, just little crumbs that I have. To a letter I received 
sometime after I published Communion, probably about six 
months. From a woman who had been walking in the woods with 
her little nine-year-old boy. And she wrote me because a dark 
blue figure like some of the ones I described in Communion had 
come face to face with her in those woods. He had come out of 
a cave, this small dark blue figure, and he spoke to her. He said 
that he was a rebel. And that there had been a war between earth 
and Mars before our history even began. And that both sides had 
lost in the sense that we had stripped Mars of its livability on the 
surface, but they had captured the human soul. And they now 
forced us to live in a perpetual state of recurrence, never making 
any progress. Dying, and then being reborn into the physical, and 
dying and being reborn into the physical, forever strapped to the 
wheel of life. And he said he disagrees with this and thinks that 
we should be let free. And he said his people call earth ‘Dead 
Forever’, that’s their name for it. [...] And I’ve wondered if those 
enigmatic statements by the Master of the Key don’t perhaps 
resonate in some way with this story. [6l) 

In fact, the Master of the Key’s statements more than dovetail with 


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the quoted stories. The Master of the Key explicitly draws on both epi- 
sodes of Strieber’s life — his participation in the internet relay chat and 
his receipt and reading of the letter — by using the same two operative 
phrases, ‘mars was murdered’ and ‘dead forever’ verbatim. But rather 
than realize that he is drawing on his own experiences to create a syn- 
thesis that forms the true basis of the Master of the Key’s “enigmatic 
statements”, Strieber performs a subtle, slippery reversal making the 
source of those statements a posteriori supportive evidence for them. 

Such slippery, judo-like reversals are related to a broad rhetorical 
strategy of Strieber’s: presenting the otherworldly experience as vividly 
as possible (implicitly arguing for its actuality), then hedging his bets 
by paying lip service to ‘keeping the question open’. And then, some- 
times owing to his “candor”, mentioning an item that clearly ought to 
cast doubt on whether his experiences were at all real, but doing so in 
passing — or worse, incorporating the detail into the narrative. One sees 
this, for example, in The Secret School. 

From a certain point of view, The Secret School seems written simply 
to convince the reader that Strieber was a brilliant child full of prophecy 
and prediction. Articles from recent science news are used as basis 
for Strieber’s childhood visions as when Strieber as a boy supposedly 
witnesses the formation of the earth-moon system and ‘sees’ the sin- 
gle-crystal core of the earth (a theory since abandoned). Popular culture 
and technology of the mid-nineties is also implicated in the childhood 
visions as when Strieber sees people wearing virtual reality helmets. 

In one vision while wearing a virtual reality helmet at the secret 
school, Strieber is suddenly on an asteroid heading toward earth. Some 
sort of planetary catastrophe was imminent. But Strieber understood 
what was happening: 

The planet below began to get much larger. Because of a movie 
I had seen, When Worlds Collide, I was well aware of the meaning 
of this phenomenon. (97) 

As usual with Strieber’s ‘visions’, a terrible event is unfolding and 
Strieber has some sort of special or inside knowledge about it. But here 
Strieber also discloses what was probably the source of the vision — a 
movie — deftly incorporating it into the vision in order to neutralize it. 

Absurdly, the same seems to occur with two of the book’s overar- 
ching concerns: ancient Rome and ancient Egypt. Strieber as a young 
boy has vivid visions of both — especially Rome — and the better part of 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


the book is spent on these visions as when Strieber remembers that in 
a past life he was a tutor to Octavius, later Augustus, and even played a 
role in preserving the Roman Empire. And that Strieber played a role in 
comforting Cicero just before his unseemly execution. 

Again, the fantasy of self is being explored in such visions. Strie- 
ber’s imagination chooses roles for him that are not outwardly crass or 
straightforward self-aggrandizement. He is not Octavius; but he does 
happen to be a tutor who guides the later emperor and indirectly chang- 
es world history. He is not Cicero; he does happen to be a shade from the 
future who can comfort Cicero that his works will survive just before his 
execution. The Secret School would have readers believe that Strieber is 
preoccupied with ancient Rome today because in past lives he lived there 
and walked around in that city, as indicated by the many visions in the 
book. Strieber writes near the end of The Secret School: 

I was a yearning child in a summer of mysteries, the most 
extraordinary of which was just about to unfold. It had become 
a summer of obsessions and the latest was Rome. I could see 
Roman faces and walk in Roman streets. I could perceive a Roman 
life unfolding as a kind of superposition on the trees and bicycles 
and movies of ordinary days. The people of Rome became as real 
to me as my own friends and family. [...] 

But then one encounters the last sentence of the paragraph: 

I bought Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster, and spent 
hours dreaming about the life of the young Octavius. (174) 

If other similar instances are any guide, Strieber is less likely recov- 
ering memories of childhood in which he had visions of past lives than 
he is inventing them. And he is strategically incorporating the fact that 
he was voraciously reading books on these past places into the narrative. 

Afterward, I read Augustus Caesar’s World until I got drowsy. 

Along with The Glory of Egypt by Michel Audrain, bought the next 
year, and Never to Die: The Egyptians in Their Own Words, by fose- 
phine Mayer and Tom Prideaux, this book is the only possession 
I still retain from those years. These three books, which have 
stayed with me always, were also the closest things to textbooks 
that I had in the secret school. (179) 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


One is four-fifths through Strieber’s book of visionary childhood 
past-life memories before one is told with clarity that Strieber was 
reading about both ancient Rome and ancient Egypt as a child. When 
combined with the fact that Strieber’s childhood visions seem to arise 
out of the science news of the mid-nineties at the time Strieber was 
writing The Secret School, along with the fact that the book’s spiritual 
and metaphysical insights all seem to reflect Strieber’s thinking from 
that period, the whole book appears as self-indulgent fantasy. Unable 
or unwilling to separate actuality from imagination, Strieber becomes 
doubly committed to his ‘experiences’ as they are unique and wonderful 
as experiences (and affirming for Strieber) and also unique and wonder- 
ful moments of storytelling. The “superposition” of these experiences, 
occupying places of both wondrous fact and wondrous imagination, is 
ultimately what makes Strieber so wedded to them; thus his willingness 
to put them before the public. 

This commitment accounts for how and why it is that Strieber is 
willing to draw from all manner of sources in order to craft his ‘expe- 
riences’. One sees this willingness even in something as small as this 
‘apple crunching’ metaphor in Communion: 

During the third week of March I had a very peculiar thing 
happen to me. Sometime in the night of March 21 at the cabin I 
awoke and found myself unable to move or even to open my eyes. 

I had the distinct impression that there was something in my left 
nostril, and that it was being slowly moved far up my nose. When 
I tried to struggle, I heard a pop like an apple crunching between 
my eyes. The next thing I remembered, it was morning. (Four) 

After a short discussion of the temporal lobe and its function and 
what temporal-lobe epilepsy is like, Strieber presents the following as 
corroboration for his experience: 

As it happened, the week after I received Dr. Klein’s letter I met 
a woman who has had the visitor experience; she began her story 
by saying that the visitors inserted a probe into her nose, which 
made a sound “like an apple crunching,” between her eyes. 

The point here is not that the experience of something being inserted 
into the left nostril did not happen. Rather, with this particular example 
what one sees is a vivid metaphor being used by Strieber with his story- 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


teller’s art in such a way that we are convinced that his experience and 
the expression “apple crunching” are one and the same — that the latter 
arose organically out of the former. But then shortly thereafter, we find 
that the woman’s story is where Strieber really got the metaphor. 

A major problem with Strieber, then, whatever his almost cloying 
earnestness, is that he is not above misleading his audience and himself 
in the pursuit of his art. This art includes having ‘experiences’ that exist 
in ‘superposition’ as stories. Whatever the gratuitous degree of trans- 
parency offered up as honesty — his willingness to admit he was not at 
the Whitman shooting, along with the contradictions, inconsistencies, 
and abundantly obvious Freudian slips 1621 — Strieber is highly skillful 
in the presentation of detail in order to convince himself and others. He 
can be slippery and strategic when on the defensive and when playing 
to different imagined audiences. 


TOWARD A THEORY OF STRIEBER’S WORK 

STRIEBER is often regarded as a horror novelist of the Stephen King 
generation made famous by The Wolfen and The Hunger who then went 
on inexplicably to write Communion, a genre-busting horror memoir 
that effectively ended his career. But the arc of Strieber’s career is 
somewhat different: first a horror novelist, Strieber’s writing began to 
quickly change and move more into line with how he really saw him- 
self: a public intellectual with an eye toward shaping public debate. As 
Strieber himself says: 

From 1977 until 1983 I wrote imaginative thrillers, but in recent 
years I had been concentrating on much more serious fiction 
about peace and the environment ( Communion , One) 

War Day (1984) and Nature’s End (1986) were both public advocacy 
novels, the former warning against nuclear war, the latter against 
environmental catastrophe. One sees in Strieber’s fairly rapid turn 
from conventional horror another dimension of Strieber’s life. As noted 
previously, Strieber’s personal narrative involves in part notions of his 
family’s political well-connectedness in Texas, ideas that he was being 
groomed for the CIA or for public office. 1631 With his public advocacy 
novels of the mid-eighties, Strieber was stepping into the role of public 
intellectual, a man of letters wanting to shape public discourse. 


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Communion thus should not be seen as a stunning reversal on his 
personal trajectory, but as the culmination of it: with Communion, 
Strieber became the public intellectual of the close encounter phenom- 
enon, a phenomenon he put forward as the most important issue facing 
mankind, allowing him to dispatch public warnings with even greater 
urgency and authority. 

The failure of Strieber’s mission was not immediate. Contrary per- 
haps to today’s assumptions, for a short time after Communion there was 
an openness in certain quarters to his message. The public, skeptical but 
willing to cross some of the distance, simply wanted proof. 

Strieber’s actual failure began with the failure to produce that ‘proof’. 
In refusing to admit what was plainly required, Transformation and 
Breakthrough can be seen as rapidly diminishing levels of success in the 
attempt to enlist science, media, politics to engage with the phenom- 
enon with Strieber as the ‘credible voice’ urging them on. Indeed, the 
failure of the Communion project took something of the form of a vicious 
circle. The more public wanted proof, the more Strieber offered them 
Gurdjieffian and Eckhartian ruminations, fragmentary memories, and 
high imagination; and the more Strieber in turn was satisfied with the 
originality of his art and personal brilliance, the more he felt justified 
in calling for science, the intellectual world, and policy elites to squarely 
face the question of contact, and in growing frustrated when they did 
not. 

This compound failure is what could allow Strieber, absurdly, to 
write in Transformation : 

Short of actual, physical evidence, I think that I have gone as 
far as possible to demonstrate the reality of the visitors. (9) 

Strieber took the collapse of his public mission personally. As it 
occurred, he ‘lost the cabin’, a phrase he has since repeated endlessly 
through the years as a kind of mantra of personal loss, the cabin being 
the symbol of his financial success and his independent and successful 
relationship to the New York literary world. Of course, Strieber’s suc- 
cess as a mainstream writer was the basis of his credibility and the 
authority on which he spoke. When he ‘lost the cabin’ in 1994 1641 and 
returned to his hometown of San Antonio, Texas, after having declared 
bankruptcy to live in an apartment where his mother had lived, that 
authority was all but gone. With Confirmation (1998) Strieber’s public 
advocacy mission finally crossed the finish line. A book whose title was 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


chosen as if in stubborn denial of its actual place in the Communion 
effort, Confirmation came more than ten years after Communion when 
goodwill toward Strieber had evaporated and the public had already long 
since given up on any expectation that ‘proof’ would be produced. As 
Strieber conceded in a 2012 interview, Confirmation “failed” and had 
“a dismal sale”. 1651 Confirmation marked the close of Strieber’s career as 
close encounter intellectual and the end of the Communion mission. But 
though the Communion effort had failed, as far as Strieber was con- 
cerned, responsibility for the failure lay squarely with the intellectual, 
policy, and scientific elites and the public — not with Strieber himself or 
his work. 1661 Strieber’s feelings of victimhood blossomed. And at the end 
of the book tour for the final book in the Communion project, a book that 
was a self-evident failure at bringing the world around to the reality 
and the importance of the abduction phenomenon, the Toronto ‘true 
encounter’ took place. That is, at the very moment Strieber’s self-worth 
was at its lowest, on the very last day of his role as public intellectual 
and mainstream truth-teller, the Master of the Key appeared at his hotel 
room door in the middle of the night to tell Strieber new and important 
truths that happened to be his own. 

Strieber’s deep sense of rejection is evident from his interviews and 
his writings. 1671 Since Confirmation there has been a marked embrace 
of victimhood in Strieber’s work. But his construction of a narrative 
of victimization has some questionable elements. One of these is the 
frequently made claim that South Park ruined his career with its pilot 
episode, “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe”: 

As a result, Transformation was read by five million people, 
Breakthrough by just six hundred thousand. By the time Confir- 
mation came along, my media exposure had degenrated into a 
grotesque identification of me as in the rectal probe man, thanks 
to cartoons like South Park and the Simpsons. 1681 

The South Park episode premiered in August 1997. Strieber has re- 
turned to the matter of South Park and its creators many times: 

The visitors brutalized me on that night. But they only raped 
my body. My heart and soul were raped by people like Matt Stone, 

Trey Parker and Craig Ferguson. 1691 

And I found myself lampooned on South Park. It was hard. It’s 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


hard to have an experience that traumatic and then, you know, 
just become a figure of fun because of it. [?o1 

While one can understand Strieber’s distress at something painfully 
experienced appearing on a cartoon, one is hard-pressed to see how 
exactly it ruined or damaged his career — or for that matter involved him 
at all. Though the aliens are referred to in the episode as ‘visitors’, there 
is no character based on Strieber in the episode, no writer, for example, 
getting probed. And by 1997, a variety of books by people like Budd Hop- 
kins and David Jacobs had discussed the rectal probe, and it had become 
a common comedic trope appearing in films like Joe Versus the Volcano 
(1990) and Passion Fish (1992). One wonders whether South Park’s demo- 
graphic of juveniles watching late-night cartoons instantly connected 
Cartman’s anal probe with Strieber’s book from ten years before, and 
how many readers from this erudite group were lost to Strieber. 

More relevant perhaps is that at the time of Confirmation’s “dismal 
sale” in 1998, Strieber had recently been associated with the Hale-Bopp 
fiasco. Just a year before in the notorious Heaven’s Gate tragedy, thir- 
ty-nine people committed suicide thinking they would join with a UFO 
following the Comet Hale-Bopp. The idea that a UFO might be following 
the comet was presented to the public at large by none other than Art 
Bell and Whitley Strieber on Coast to Coast AM. While Bell and Strieber 
were in a sense also victims of the hoax, and later distanced themselves 
sharply from the event, here is Strieber giving the odds on-air that the 
Hale-Bopp spacecraft was real: 

Bell: On a scale of ten, all the information presented tonight, 
how high a probability do you give it that what we are experienc- 
ing right now is indeed first contact? 

Strieber: An eight. 

Bell: An eight out of ten. 

Strieber: Yeah, and I’ll tell you why. [...] 

And here is Strieber saying he was praying for the ‘visitors’ a few 
minutes later: 

I was at mass, and I had a very powerful feeling of the presence 
of the Grays. And I often pray for them. Because if they’re bad, 
they need it, and if they’re good, they’ll like it. [...] You know I feel 
very much protected by God. 1711 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


While there is no way to say with certainty what determined Strie- 
ber’s book sales, it seems at least as likely that an overall fatigue with 
Strieber’s work and Strieber’s association with Hale-Bopp sank his sales 
as South Park’s rectal probe humor. With any personal narrative, there is 
a selective presentation of detail, and Strieber’s is no different. 

Perhaps the strangest issue with Strieber’s narrative of victimization 
is the question of whether he was raped during his Communion encoun- 
ters. In The Super Natural, Strieber writes of his inability for many years 
to describe the Communion experience with the ‘rectal probe’ as rape to 
his wife: 


It took me a quarter of a century to even describe the experi- 
ence as a rape to my wife, (ch 2) 

As I have said, it took me twenty-five years even to admit to my 
wife that I had been raped, (ch 6) 

Strieber had been saying something similar for several years. In The 
Omega Point (2010), Strieber wrote: 

I will never forget the ghastly shock that coursed through me 
a few days later when my doctor said, “You’ve been raped.” It 
was so humiliating that it took me twenty years to actually utter 
those words. (Author’s Note) 

And in a number of interviews between 2010 and 2015, Strieber re- 
peated the same statement. For example: 

You know, it took me more than twenty years. It was 2005, I 
guess it was 20 years before I could actually say outright I was 
raped on that night. [72) 

And suddenly I wake up in this situation, I had a nightmarishly 
difficult experience including a rape — it took me more than 20 
years to actually be able to say that happened to me. 1731 

Your doctor says to you, Whitley, you’ve been raped. ..It took me 
25 years even to say those words to my wife, I was so humiliated 
by it. t741 


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The suggestion being made by Strieber is that like many rape victims 
he was so humiliated that for many years he could not bring himself 
to admit to others what had happened. But the suggestion is baffling 
because Strieber was associating what had happened to him with rape 
as early as Communion itself: 

Scoffing at them is as ugly as laughing at rape victims. (Prelude) 

And in the very same paragraph that the rectal probe experience is 
described, Strieber wrote: 

Apparently its purpose was to take samples, possibly of fecal 
matter, but at the time I had the impression that I was being 
raped, and for the first time I felt anger. (One) 

One cannot help but think that Strieber’s wife read Communion, 
including the part where he was straightforwardly associating himself 
with having been raped. Strieber would continue to unambiguously 
associate the abduction experience with rape throughout the years. In a 
1993 interview he said: 

So, as far as I’m concerned, the UFO community, which revolves 
around this black or white interpretation, literally has no idea of 
what’s going on. They haven’t even begun. The true encounter 
experience is a form of rape, basically. And I think because there 
is no viable cultural infrastructure to support the people it hap- 
pens to and to control the ones who are doing it, (abductees) have 
to help themselves and make it into a transformative experience. 

Just as if a woman was raped and is just laughed at by her friends 
and family. That happens. She ends up in the same situation I was 
in. Two choices. Either she makes the rape encounter into some- 
thing she can live with, she makes it something that strengthens 
her soul, or she falls into despair. I did both. t7Sl 

And in Confirmation (1998) he wrote: 

Powerful feelings are engaged when somebody comes face to 
face with it, that sometimes lead the witness toward a painful 
sense of having been raped [...] (ch 10 ) 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Whether or not what happened to Strieber was rape, and whether or 
not he was subsequently victimized in the media and elsewhere, at issue 
here is clearly a certain narrative of victimhood and its construction, 
especially in the 2000s. t761 After all, given that he was associating himself 
and the abduction phenomenon with rape as early as Communion, one 
might well ask how it was possible that Strieber could say it took him 
“twenty-five years to admit” to his wife he had been raped. 

One starts to get a glimmer of an answer when one discovers the 
following in Strieber’s 1989 novel Majestic: 

He could not tell anybody that he had just been, in effect, raped. 

It was a secret he kept for forty-two years, until yesterday, (ch 20) 

In Majestic, Wilfred Stone, a character with many noted similarities 
to Strieber, is manually stimulated to climax by an alien and concludes 
he has “in effect” been raped, a secret he keeps for decades — as Strieber 
would say years later using very similar language. But Majestic appeared 
only two years after Communion. There is a blurring taking place here 
between Strieber and a fictional character from twenty years before, 
further sign we are in the realm of narrative. 

Strieber’s talking point that he waited twenty-five years to tell his 
wife he had been raped seems driven ultimately by a tendency of Strie- 
ber’s we saw earlier: Strieber being strategic. His decision to link his 
own abduction experience with the culturally inviolable place of rape 
victimhood was already apparent in 1987 where the word “rape” is used 
in the same paragraph in Communion as mention of the rectal probe, 
and Strieber has also been talking about rape more or less constantly 
since that time. The idea that Strieber was raped and in embarrassment 
and shame waited twenty years to tell his wife is thus not credible, par- 
ticularly because it is a detail he put this into the mouth of a fictional 
character as early as 1989. Rather what the rape narrative represents is 
Strieber dealing in the cachet of the rape victim for strategic reasons 
through an argument of similarity while at the same time representing 
to himself his own feelings of victimization at the hands of others. This 
should be obvious given that the comments made by Strieber about being 
‘raped’ are generally not directed in anger at the ‘visitors’ who ‘raped’ 
him, but rather critics, comedians, and so on ridiculing him. Finally, one 
might wonder how seriously one should take the ‘rape’ of a man who can 
say the visitors “raped the dickens” out of him: 


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Until finally, whatever it was and is that does these things, just 
dragged me out of the house in the middle of the night, raped the 
dickens out of me [...] [76al 

Strieber’s feelings of victimhood, the failure of the Communion mis- 
sion, and the end to his role as truth-teller and public intellectual to the 
culture at large taken together form the sitz-im-leben for The Key, a book 
of revelation from an otherworldly figure who delivers the definitive 
statement of Whitley Strieber’s ideas from that period. And one can be 
even more precise about the context in which The Key arose. In June 1998 
when the ‘true encounter’ took place, Strieber was getting ready to write 
a book with Art Bell under the provisional title ‘The Edge’. The book was 
abandoned by Strieber in favor of Superstorm (co-authored with Bell) and 
after The Key. ‘The Edge’ was retitled The Source and written by Bell, this 
time with Brad Steiger, and released in 1999 with the same basic concept: 
a massive survey of all the ‘edge’ topics: ancient civilizations, alien ab- 
duction, crop circles, cattle mutilations, coming earth changes, ghosts, 
out-of-body experiences, and more. In fact, the book encompassed so 
many topics readers have complained of the sheer number in its Amazon 
reviews. In this context of Strieber already preparing to write a book 
that was a broad survey of these topics, The Key appears to be Strieber 
deciding to make his own statement about these phenomena. Rather 
than simply chronicling them, Strieber sought to unify and explain such 
phenomena in a broad scientific, philosophical, and spiritual vision of 
his own making. 

Strieber has often bitterly complained that the intellectual culture 
has failed to confront such topics. But it could be argued that Strieber 
represents this very confrontation — in all its inevitable failure. Strieber 
is arguably exactly what one would expect from our intellectual culture 
as it is currently constituted when given the otherworldly as a problem: 
the Moses-leading-his-tribe-to-the-promised-land symptom com- 
bined with the desire-for-recognition symptom resulting in damaged 
self-worth and wounded feelings. In Strieber’s case, the wounding and 
personal rejection seem to have produced to a ‘true encounter’ in which 
an otherworldly exemplar of human decency and kindness appears in 
order to confirm Strieber’s own speculations, vindicating him on those 
points and, of course, simply by choosing him for the visitation. 

That failure is also our failure. If Strieber had had four or five 
true thinkers to engage with in the late nineteen-eighties, his work 
post -Communion might not have been what we see today in retrospect: 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


an increasingly poetic and thinner set of ruminations till Confirmation, 
itself a last-gasp effort to insist he had the proof that the public wanted 
after Communion (ten years too late); then an explosion of clarity with 
The Key only possible on the basis of a profound self-deception, followed 
by some extremely uneven writing in novels, some so bad as to be un- 
readable. 

The question of responsibility, however, inevitably returns to Strieber. 
Strieber in 2016 in The Super Natural can say: “I am almost pathologically 
honest” (ch 18). Certainly, Strieber has organized his personality in such 
a way that he is absolutely convinced of his own honesty. But as this 
paper has shown, with The Key, Strieber has involved his fans in an 
elaborate self-deception in which a ‘true encounter’ was constructed in 
order to confirm and validate Strieber at the deepest levels. To advance 
this self-validating fantasy scenario, Strieber was not above re-pur- 
posing concepts from his Gurdjieff ‘work’, borrowing from his friend 
Michael Talbot, gleaning from science news, even stealing from himself. 

What can it mean when prisoners on death row are reading this book, 
taking solace from what ultimately is one man’s fantasy? According to 
a message board post, at least one death row inmate had been reading 
The Key . 1771 One wonders how much the book has been passed around, 
how many other men in the same desperate circumstances have been 
drawn in by its message. What measure of responsibility does an author 
bear who for reasons of wounded self-esteem pens a fantasy read by 
prisoners awaiting execution, comforting themselves perhaps with what 
may be badly mistaken notions of surviving death through meditation? 

Determinations of moral responsibility are not within the scope of 
this paper. What is within its scope — and has been demonstrated — is 
that as an intellectual document The Key has no credibility. Whether or 
not any of the particular statements of the Master of the Key happen 
to be true, the origin of the book’s ideas lay not with an otherworldly 
man in a Toronto hotel who does not pay taxes, but with an unusual- 
ly confused and emotional writer who sought to do what all of us do 
— convince others to convince himself. In Strieber’s case, since he was 
an author, he did what he was able: he wrote a book. He convinced his 
devoted fans of the reality of the experience, and interwove it into his 
personal narrative, always maintaining a certain ambivalence about the 
encounter since he could never erase all knowledge that the encounter 
originated with him. After all, when the Master of the Key said Strieber 
should go to Calcutta and worship at the feet of the first street urchin 
that he found, did Strieber do so? Confronted with a man who spoke 


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as God, some might have done. When the Master of the Key said in 
order to survive death Strieber would have to meditate, did Strieber give 
up writing and devote his life to full-time meditation? Some afraid of 
disappearing into the darkness of death might have done. Always the 
same silent ambivalence has been underlying The Key which has allowed 
Strieber to say “this is my great work”. How could a writer regard the 
transcription of another man’s words as his “great work”? 

Given the ease with which Strieber could put the ideas of Gurdjieff 
into the mouth of the Master of the Key, claim he had never before heard 
that God was a hologram despite being featured in the book The Holo- 
graphic Universe, as well as all the many errors and wishful thinking and 
false prophecies and so on in his work, one wonders if despite Strieber, 
his work does not in fact get precisely the amount of attention it deserves. 
That is, taken as literature, and Strieber as author and intellectual, what 
does it say of an author and intellectual when he does not know whether 
he has written or edited his own works? When he cannot recognize his 
own words in the mouth of a fantastic, fictive being? On what basis does 
Strieber continue to present himself to the public as the deep thinker of 
the close encounter phenomenon, a credible intellectual when as in The 
Key, there is such complete self-delusion combined with a demonstrable 
substratum of self-serving inauthenticity in his work? 

And what does one now do with Strieber’s close encounter narratives? 
A useful distillation of those experiences was given by Strieber on his 
Solving the Communion Enigma website: 

It’s quite easy to communicate with them. When I had close 
encounters, I would often simply ask questions aloud. Usually, 
the answers would be in the form of vivid pictures in my mind. 
Sometimes, words I heard as if projected into my head. On rare 
occasions, spoken words. Two spoken responses were: To the 
question, what would help me the most, the spoken answer was 
“Have joy.” To the question, do human beings have souls, the 
spoken answer was “Not all.” [78] 

It is as if inadvertently Strieber has given us the two axes of his close 
encounter experiential grid. The ‘have joy’, of course, invokes the whole 
Catholic problematic that Strieber uses to frame his experiences, with 
emphasis on Meister Eckhart. All of the concern with ecstasy, joy, sin, 
and self-will that one finds in The Key are taken from Strieber’s own 
Catholicism and from Eckhart. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


The other axis of his experiences comes from Gurdjieff, who is al- 
ready catholicized in the second quote. All of the emphasis from the 
‘visitors’ on meditation and the whole menu of concepts Strieber claims 
to get from the visitors seems to come out of Gurdjieff and the Gurdjieff 
work. One can see it in Strieber’s 2006 novel The Grays. According to 
Strieber, The Grays was written in order to tell new truths about the 
‘grays’ not possible to tell in non-fiction. Strieber said variously that 
it was because of blocks on his conscious mind that he was unable to 
say certain things directly, and also that the process of writing fiction 
uniquely dredged up unconscious and repressed material. 1791 

But when the fundamental new fact about the ‘grays’ in Strieber’s 
book is that they are said to organize themselves into triads, should not 
one be suspicious? Strieber wrote in a Journal entry announcing his book: 

My initial contacts were with the Grays. These people were 
not androids or robots. They were complex, richly alive beings 
who were obviously incredibly and totally different from us. As 
you will see in the book, I learned from observation that they 
function in groups of three, which I call triads. 1801 

And the triads are not simply trios. In The Grays, they are organized 
into positive, negative, and reconciling a la Gurdjieff: 

The Two, as the negative pole of the triad, showed her a long 
needle. Her eyes widened as she saw the silver of it appearing out 
of the dark that surrounded her. She could not see the Thieves, of 
course, they were too careful for that. (The Grays, Four) 

As Strieber himself would later write in The Super Natural: 

In one of my novels, The Grays, the aliens are divided into triads, 
with one always advocating action, the second warning of danger, 
and the third reconciling the ideas of the other two and moving 
the triad forward. This is because close encounters so often begin 
with a triangle of stars crossing the sky. 

Grouping by threes is an important part of the way the visitors 
present themselves to us, and I noticed from the beginning that 
my relationship with them was structured around ideas that I 
had learned in the Gurdjieff Work, most particularly, a method 
of meditation that facilitated communication with them, (ch 6) 


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Of course, how it is that a “triangle of stars crossing the sky” leads 
to the conclusion that the Grays organize themselves into Gurdjieffian 
triads is unknown. But it is worth noting that when Gurdjieff in his 
Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950) describes the aliens on the planet 
Purgatory, like Strieber’s ‘grays’, his aliens are outwardly sexless and 
organize themselves into positive, negative, and neutralizing triads. 1811 

Another of the distinguishing characteristics of the ‘grays’ according 
to Strieber is that they are also ‘awake’ in the Gurdjieffian sense: 

I remained with the foundation until 1983, when it became clear 
to me that friction that was developing between me and some 
of the leadership was being generated by me, because of a deep 
need to leave and challenge my own ability to sustain my inner 
work on my own. Between 1983 and 1985 , 1 continued occasional 
meetings with Jean Sultzberger and William C. Segal, who were 
dear friends in the foundation, much my senior, and whose mas- 
tery, so assured and yet so humble, seemed very authentic to me. 

Then came the close encounter. In January, I went to William 
Segal and described the experience to him. He said, ?fifteen 
minutes with them, fifteen years of meditation.? I could not have 
agreed with him more. Even while I was with the visitors on that 
night, so lost in fear that my first title for Communion was to be 
Body Terror, I knew from the way they moved and acted that they 
were, in the context of Gurdjieff?s theories, ?awake.? 

If you meditate in the manner prescribed by him, dividing your 
attention between inner and outer life? forming what he called 
the ?double arrow? of attention?you become able to see when 
others are doing this as well. The woman whose portrait is on 
the cover of Communion, which I am looking up at now as I write, 
was without a doubt the greatest master I have ever known. Her 
being projected devastatingly powerful knowledge. A great part 
of the terror that I knew when I was with her came not from the 
situation, but from how it felt to be seen by her. 1821 

Viewed alongside other close encounter accounts, it seems unde- 
niable that Strieber’s own Gurdjieffian background strongly informs 
statements he presents as facts about the ‘grays’. The same Gurdjieffian 
commitment is visible everywhere in his work. In The Secret School, for 
example, Strieber organizes the book into three triads of three ‘lessons’ 
each. Unfortunately, the first five chapters do not contain any actual les- 


598 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


sons. It is only in the sixth chapter of the book that Strieber is introduced 
to the circle of children and the secret school proper. Likewise, Strieber 
frequently tells the story of the ‘nine knocks’ said to have occurred in 
three sets of three. But he frequently neglects to mention that according 
to his original account there was a tenth ‘double-knock’, which could 
therefore be taken as ten or eleven knocks in total . 1831 Strieber’s will- 
ingness to use anything and everything in the creation of a meaningful 
encounter narrative, usually the most fantastic and yet spiritual possible, 
seems to have no limits. Even the name ‘visitors’, which Strieber has 
always presented as an sophisticated choice made to preserve ambiguity, 
appears to be an unconscious plagiarism of the name of another set of 
feral aliens from the television show ‘V’ which aired for two years just 
prior to Strieber’s Communion. 

The three-dimensionality of Strieber’s accounts, once gratefully 
accepted as providing deeper insights into these experiences, ends up 
appearing in light of the problems with The Key as nothing more than 
a function of a uniquely gifted storyteller’s art serving the emotional 
needs of the author. Strieber’s accounts appear now to have no more 
value, and no less value, than all of the other more two-dimensional 
accounts. Given the pervasiveness of the problems, it is impossible 
to take Strieber’s work seriously as straightforward representations 
or windows into actual experiences. The problem of imagination and 
confabulation and an author willing to passionately advocate for the 
plainly, demonstrably false (e.g. The Conversation as a transcription of 
a ‘true encounter’) makes it impossible. When an author cannot tell 
whether he has written his own books or whether he has revised them 
it must render suspect everything he has said. Whereas before to an 
ordinary open-minded person granting a possible reality to the contact 
experience, everything Strieber said might well be true, now following 
The Key, to the same person everything Strieber has said is probably false. 
After all, there are plenty of abductees who while also bearing signs of 
trauma still nonetheless do not display that maddening combination of 
imagination and confusion that Strieber exhibits. 

It is difficult not to regard Strieber as a brilliant fool, a man who 
does not know whether he is coming or going. Starting by trying to con- 
vince us of the authenticity of his experiences, whatever their ultimate 
nature, he in the end convinced us that he is a storyteller. Desperate 
to convince us of his honesty, he ended up showing us he was willing 
to deceive us to deceive himself. Trying to lead us as the deep thinker 
of the close encounter phenomenon, he leaves a body of work that is 


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complete confusion. Strieber’s work fails completely in what it sets out 
to achieve, namely, to be a credible, intellectually viable confrontation 
with the otherworldly. 

In 2015, Strieber celebrated his seventieth birthday. Unlikely per- 
haps to produce any new landmark works, Communion: A True Story 
and The Key: A True Encounter probably form the bookends of Strieber’s 
unique career. While The Key has had none of the cultural impact that 
Communion had, it is nonetheless the perfect lens through which to see 
Strieber’s work as has been shown. Perhaps the worst consequence of 
this, at least from the perspective of fans, is that everything skeptics 
and debunkers accused Strieber of at the time of Communion has turned 
out to be true. Strieber is what his critics claimed: a fantasist. 

As if any more proof were needed, consider the sad case of Anne 
Strieber, the author’s late wife who died in August 2015. In an entirely 
predictable turn of events, not long after Anne Strieber’s death, Whitley 
entered into ‘contact’ with her. Now Anne is co-hosting the Dreamland 
podcast with Strieber: 1841 

About 15 minutes into the show one of those wonderful, mys- 
terious Anne Strieber Moments takes place when she says in the 
context of the discussion “Having a body is not the only reason 
you’re alive.” Listen to find out why she said it and what it means. 

Further, in what might be regarded by some as a desecration of her 
memory, Strieber has restarted his wife’s blog in which he channels ‘her’ 
words: 


On August 17, 2015, a week after Anne’s death, I concluded her 
diary. Since then, there have been many incidents which have 
seemed to me to suggest that her consciousness is still intact 
and her presence is continuing. In the journal entry I just did on 
Open Prayer, I said that I did not feel that I should start her diary 
again because the presence of the dead is such an open quesiton. 

In the past 24 hours, I have changed my mind. Or rather, Anne 
has. She speaks to me so spontaneously and easily that I am going 
to just have to accept that its her. She says, for example, right 
now: “Tell everybody that I’m here. I’m right here. A lot of us 
are. A lot! But the body turns you toward the outside so you can’t 
have relationships with us. You forget us but we don’t forget you.” 

She wants this new diary to be about furthering the kind of 


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communication that we have, so I will do my best to make it that. 

“Tell them to be quiet inside for as long as they can. that gives us 
a chance to be heard. Try not to make up versions of us. Don’t use 
your imagination. Here’s a test: if you forget something — a name, 
anything — ask your dead to remind you. If what you’ve forgotten 
comes right to mind, that’s a good test .” 1851 

Anne’s message is vintage Strieber. She is concerned with the “body”, 
the problem of attention, the need to quiet the mind to receive other- 
worldly messages, and of course, the problem of imagination. There is 
even a helpful tip on how to distinguish between reality and imagina- 
tion: it involves memory, and if you have forgotten something and ask 
the dead, should the answer come spontaneously you are not imagining 
things. One recalls Strieber’s success at ‘remembering’ the words of the 
Master of the Key. 

Anne Strieber is now also guiding Whitley through experiences with 
the visitors: 

Recently I had a very frightening experience with the visitors. 

It was intentionally induced by them and led to them backing off 
from a relationship that has recently become very much closer 
and is the treasure of my life. I was bereft, but this time I was not 
left in the dark about why I had reacted with such fear to what 
they did, or what their motives were. The reason is that I have 
Anne on the other side, and she offered what I believe to be an 
insight into the situation that is of fundamental importance. 

She said to stop addressing them with my emotions. “Look at 
their presence here objectively. Our relationship with them is like 
a mandala of dark and light. They are the dark side, and it is in 
the dark that we find knowledge. Ours is the light, and it is in the 
light that they find understanding.” 1861 

The Anne of the afterlife is another version of Whitley, concerned 
with the relationship between dark and light, finding value in the former, 
and using Strieberian vocabulary (e.g. “objectively”). Of course, on some 
level Strieber is aware he is channeling himself. It is why he shapes his 
own language to make it seem less like his own: 

I have certainly come to rely on Anne to remind me of all 
sorts of things. She had a marvelous memory in this life and 


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she still does! She says, “It’s even better now. You have no idea. 

Here, memories are things, colors and images woven into a living 
carpet that is the life you have lived.” 

Here Strieber sidesteps a favorite term of his — ‘tapestry’ — to de- 
scribe his classic concept of moments of human life living on outside of 
time, and instead opts for “carpet”. So doing, he creates a clumsy visual 
metaphor of human life as something on which people tread. 

One has to despair on some level at the foolishness Strieber rep- 
resents. But it would be just as foolish to assert that what Strieber has 
done is somehow qualitatively different from what everyone is doing all 
the time. Strieber is on a continuum of human beings doing everything 
within their power — including concocting the most exotic fantasy — to 
find meaning and make sense of their experiences. Paraphrasing the 
author of Ecclesiastes it may be said: “Delusion, delusion. Everything is 
delusion”. Strieber’s frantic and desperate desire to find meaning in his 
contact experiences in order to secure a place as public intellectual with 
his “new vision” of contact and to find value for himself is thoroughly 
human. After all, the desire to locate in such experiences a fantasy of 
transcendent wisdom is not limited to Strieber. Others, too, when they 
have gotten past the incomprehensibility of their experiences, settle on 
some basic meaning to them and write books. 

The hopeful, hopeless desire to find in the otherworldly a source of 
transcendental wisdom is described in Communion by accident with such 
wisdom in its classic representation symbolized by an owl: 

But I wanted desperately to believe in that owl. I told my wife 
about it. She was polite, but commented about the absence of 
tracks. I really very much wanted to convince her of it, though. 

Even more, I wanted to convince myself. So intent was I on this 
that I telephoned a friend in California for the specific, yet un- 
likely, purpose of telling her about the barn owl at the window. 

(One) 


602 


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NOTES 


PART ONE 

[return to section! 

[1] The company was named after two characters from Strieber’s 
novel Catmagic: “Whitley’s World News 3 January 2001” at: http:// 
beyondcommunion.com/toronto/010103w_w_n.html 

According to Strieber in “Q. & A with Whitley Strieber: The Key ” 
(26 Mar 2001 © Sean Casteel), he started Walker & Collier, Inc. 
after editing the Hidden Agendas series for Dell. Strieber wanted to 
release books by other authors as well as himself. According to the 
following website, the company was incorporated in 1995: 

http://www.manta.c0m/c/mm2l73y/walker-collier-inc 

[2] This according to the now-defunct site beyondcommunion.com. 
The unsourced statement was located at the bottom of the page: 
http://beyondcommunion.com/thekey.html 

It is not clear whether this printer handled all printings of the 
Walker & Collier version. See following note. 

[3] The book available for purchase in January 2001 may have been 
different than the book available in subsequent years. The first 
printing of The Key appears to have been done as 8.5 x 11” book 
with black plastic comb binding. The only difference between the 
initial 8.5 x 11” book and the more widely circulated 6 x 9” based 
on direct comparison is the addition of an ISBN box on the back 
cover of the 6 x 9” book in the lower right corner with ISBN 10 and 
13 numbers. By rights the ISBN numbers should have been added to 
the copyright page of the 6 x 9” book but were not. The 2001 book 
at the 8.5 x 11” size had to be turned to the horizontal position 
(landscape) to be read with two numbered book pages side-by-side 
on each printed page. But in all other respects, the interiors of the 
two printings appear identical. 

In a variety of articles throughout the years and in interviews 
in 2011 to promote the release of the Tarcher version of The Key, 
Strieber bafflingly gave 2002 as the year of the release of his own 


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original self-published version. One possible explanation is that 
Strieber was referring to the year the smaller 6 x 9” printing was 
made available for purchase. Otherwise why he would use this date 
is unclear. 

The book was available for sale in January 2001 according to a 
variety of sources (see note 4). It was printed with a 2001 copyright 
date. According to a Library of Congress filing in 2011, the book 
was created in 2000 and copyright 2001. 

[4] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20010203152900/http://whitleysw0rld.c0m/ 
thekey.html 

Strieber talked about The Key being already available for sale in an 
interview on Clear Talk with Constance Clear, KENS Radio AM 1160 
San Antonio dated 12 Jan 2001. 

On February 7, 2001, Strieber announced on Coast to Coast AM 
with Art Bell that his new website, unknowncountry.com, was up 
for the first time that day. The websites whitleysworld.com and 
strieber.com, he said, now redirected to unknowncountry.com. The 
Key, Strieber said, was available for sale. 

THE SCENARIO 

[return to section) 

[5] According to the calendar, June 6, 1998, was a Saturday. On page 78 
(W&C) Strieber says it “was a Saturday morning” when he woke up 
to leave the hotel. Strieber often says the event took place on the 
‘last day’ of his book tour. It seems he considered the tour basically 
finished the previous day (Friday), though he has also elsewhere 
said that he stopped at at least one bookstore in Toronto before 
departing by plane. 

[6] Whitleysworld News 3 Jan 2001. Retrieved from beyondcommunion. 
com. 

[7] “Q.& A with Whitley Strieber: The Key” 26 Mar 2001 © Sean Casteel 

[8] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20010203152900/http://whitleysworld.com/ 
thekey.html 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[9] Excerpt from Whitleysworld News e-mail newsletter 27 Oct 2000. 
Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. 

[10] Coast to Coast AM 07 Feb 2001 [-32:30] 

[11] Excerpt from Whitleysworld News e-mail newsletter 27 Oct 2000. 
Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. 

[12] Whitleysworld message board 11 Oct 2000. Retrieved from beyond- 
communion.com. 

[13] Strieber has consistently called The Conversation a ‘transcription’ 
from his earliest pre-publication statements to the present day. 

[14] Whitleysworld News 3 Jan 2001. Retrieved from beyondcommunion. 
com. 

[15] Clear Talk with Constance Clear KENS Radio AM 1160 San Antonio 
12 Jan 2001 - Transcript from beyondcommunion.com 

[16] “The Key, Part Four” Strieber’s 2003 audio commentary, [-1:45] 

[17] Dreamland, “The Censorship of The Key”, 21 May 2011 (available 
from 19 May). In the interview with Jim Marrs Strieber twice refers 
to his book as a “sacred text”. 

EVERYTHING HE SAID WAS NEW 

[return to section) 

[18] “Q.& A with Whitley Strieber: The Key” 26 Mar 2001 © Sean Casteel 

[19] “This is not a designed work, fiction or non. It is a transcription 
of a conversation, and that’s all it can be.” “Q. & A with Whitley 
Strieber: The Key" 26 Mar 2001 © Sean Casteel 

From early on, Strieber regarded the ‘true encounter’ as uncom- 
monly real among his experiences: 

However, there could be a reason that this happened. I have 
begun my book about the lengthy encounter in Toronto that 


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took place in June of 1998. Unlike the recent event, the reality of 
this one isn’t in question. 

Whitleysworld News 14 Sept 2000. Retrieved from beyondcom- 
munion.com 

[20] Paratopia 116, “Whitley Strieber - The Key”, 13 May 2011 [-13:00] 

Strieber has gone even further in his assertions about the accuracy 
of his transcription. In the questions-and-answers section of the 
book’s promotional website, Strieber suggested it was 100% accu- 
rate: 

As to how the conversation could have been transcribed. That 
was not difficult for me at all. I could have done it without notes 
really, they were mnemonics, nothing more. Although it is not 
as acute as it once was, obviously, in those days I had a good 
memory. As matters stand, I can still easily remember con- 
versations I had with people 20 or 30 years ago. Remembering 
this one, to which I was paying such close attention, was not 
difficult. The words are probably verbatim. 

http://www.motkbook.com/questions-answers/ 

[21] In the Western tradition, dialogues have involved non-human 
interlocutors in the past such as Philosophy (Boethius) or Reason 
(Augustine). These figures are regarded as allegorical, and their 
encounters literary stagings. There is no sign of their authors 
insisting that the conversations had actually taken place. 

http://plato.stanford.edU/entries/medieval-literary/#Dia 

For this question-and-answer dialogue, The Conversation (Walker 
& Collier), Adobe InDesign gives a total word count figure of 19419 
words. 16312 words belong to the Master of the Key, 3107 to Strieber 
or just 16%. Microsoft Word gives a similar word count of 19479 
words in total, 16364 for the Master of the Key, 3113 for Strieber 
or 16%. Thus we can say that The Conversation heavily favors the 
Master of the Key, around 84% of the total word count consisting 
of his answers. 


606 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


KEY POINTS 

[return to section) 

[22] See Strieber’s first audio commentary on The Key, “The Key, Part 
One” [-15:30] 

THE KEY TEN YEARS LATER 

[return to section) 

[23] http://www.sgglit.com/press.htm 

[24] http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/embarrassed-your-archaic- 
phone 

[25] http://www.tarcherbooks.net/spring-2011s-hot-titles/ 

[26] Whitley’s Journal, “Predictions for 2011”, 14 Jan 2011 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/predictions-2011 

[27] http://www.amazon.com/The-Key-A-True-Encounter/dp/1585428698 

[28] http://www.amaz0n.c0m/The-Key-A-True-Enc0unter/dp/B0052T10KS/ 

PART TWO 

DIFFERENCES DISCOVERED 

[return to section) 

[1] Throughout the controversy, Strieber confusingly refers to the 
Walker and Collier edition as the “2002 edition”. This odd mistake 
occurs in Journal entries and in interviews. See Part One note 3. 

[2] Whitley’s Journal, “The Old Edition of the Key was CENSORED, the 
New One is Not”, 15 May 2011 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/old-edition-key-was-censored- 

new-one-not 

DREAMLAND 

[return to section) 


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[3] Program dated 21 May 2011, but available from 19 May 2011. 

CHANGES 

[return to section) 

[4] [-3:12] 

[5] [-3530] 

[6] “The Key, Part Five” available from 1 Jan 2004 (?) 

[7] Mentioned in the Changes essay but not discussed here is the third 
place where Strieber reads out loud from ‘censored’ material: in 
“The Key, Part Four”, 20 Jun 2003 [-30:40]. 

Also not mentioned in the essay but discovered subsequently is the 
fact that Strieber quoted from ‘censored’ material and discussed it 
as early as 2001, less than two weeks after his book was published, 
though admittedly the difference is small: 

Clear Talk with Constance Clear KENS Radio AM 1160 San Antonio 
12 Jan 2001 - Transcript from beyondcommunion.com 

WHITLEY: Ok. Before we go on with the story I want to read 
something from The Key. And this relates because this is one of 
the statements in there that made me think about the Knights 
Templar, originally. 

I asked him who are you? Christ? Or a demon yourself? He 
said, “stop thinking this way. This is no longer the Middle Ages. 
Be objective. Remember that all of God is in everything. The 
whole of creation is the matter of God. Nothing is separate from 
God nor can ever be. Your sense of independence is an illusion 
so that you can take the journey of discovery. So also, no matter 
what you may call me, I am in God.” 

This is a very messianic idea, and a very Templar idea. Now 
let’s go back to who they were, and how they may relate to this 
in an unusual way. [...] 

[8] Will 2003 be the Year of the Alien? 

Whitley’s Journal 26 Oct 2002 


608 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


One of the strangest close encounter descriptions I ever received 
came from somebody who was walking in the woods when a 
little creature dressed in dark blue came out of a cave. He said 
that he was a rebel, and wanted to let the truth be known. The 
truth was that there had been a war between advanced civi- 
lizations on Earth and Mars many millennia ago. Earth had 
wrecked Mars, but Mars had gained control over our souls. They 
had condemned us to a perpetual cycle of rebirth and forgetting, 
of rising and falling civilizations, of always losing track with 
our past, going on and on forever. They called our world ‘Dead 
Forever.’ 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/will-2003-be-year-alien 

Cosmic War in the Past 

Dreamland 26 Jan 2008 - Joseph Farrell 

[-8:20] Shortly after I published Communion, I received a letter 
from a woman who had been walking in the woods with her 
son. And she said that a man, a little man in a blue uniform, a 
tiny figure had come out of a cave in these woods and said to 
her that he was a rebel. And that the people of earth had lost a 
war many thousands of years ago, that this war had involved a 
great destruction in our solar system, and that the war had been 
between Earth and Mars. And that Mars had lost its ability to 
support life. But the Martians had not lost the war. That they 
had in fact captured our souls. And they kept us in a state of 
perpetual reincarnation. And in their language the word for our 
planet was ‘dead forever’. We would continue to reincarnate into 
the physical forever. And he said he felt this was wrong, and that 
we should be released. 

Why do Members of the Power Elite want Us Dead? 

Subscriber special 26 Jun 2014 - Jim Marrs 

[-26:50] I’ve often wondered if it might be a little different. What 
if we’re quarantined and these people are the ones who are 
interacting with our jailers — in effect, they are the ones who 
run the quarantine and that’s why we’re kept in this helpless 
state. [...] [30:20] And I will never forget, and folks we’re gonna 
conclude with this. A woman wrote me who’d been — this is 


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early on — she’d been taking a walk in Tennessee with her little 
nine-year-old boy. And she found this small dark blue figure 
came out of a cave in a forest. And it said to her, it said: I’m a 
rebel. And a great long time ago there was a war between earth 
and Mars. You stripped Mars of all life on its surface. But we 
captured your souls. And we forced you to recur forever on this 
wheel and you never get out of here. And our name for your 
planet is Dead Forever. Now, let’s hope that’s not true! 

[9] Is a War Between the Worlds Breaking Out? 

Subscriber special 24 Jan 2013 - Linda Moulton Howe 

[-10:20] I’ll never forget in the early internet relay chats about 
Mars, just after, before, the Internet. The internet was just be- 
ginning in 1985 when we started that conversation. One of the 
headings was ‘Was Mars Murdered?’ 

Cosmic War in the Past 

Dreamland 26 Jan 2008 - Joseph Farrell 

[-1:45] Many, many years ago when I first was involved with 
the Mars face, when I sat in an apartment in New York City in 
1985, in October of 1985 with Dick Hoagland looking over the 
old Viking photographs and looking at that face staring up 
from below, I joined a group of scientists who were then on 
a message system — this was pre-internet — where we were 
discussing what had happened on Mars. And this was long 
before all the lying and the confusion and the NASA nonsense, 
etc., etc., etc., and the changes in the Martian surface that have 
come to obscure those forms that were so clear in the Viking 
photographs. Now, one of the things I will never forget is one of 
those messages came up and it said: Mars was murdered. And 
the message referred to the D&H [sic] pyramid and that crater 
in the lower edge of it. And said that, this particular scientist 
said — who became quite a famous scientist, I won’t mention his 
name because I think that he’d probably be ruined in the plan- 
etological community now if anyone knew that he had ever said 
this. In any case, he said that that pyramid had been entered 
by something that had come from the side. Not from above. In 
other words, it was not a crater, but something had penetrated 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


it, blown up inside, and caused the entire pyramid to collapse. 

[10] Michael Glickman: Crop Circles, the Greatest Mystery 

Dreamland 16 Apr 2011 

[-28:10] I knew a priest, a Catholic priest, and while I have like 
everybody who’s Catholic — I have all kinds of problems with 
the Church. But he said to me, we were talking once theolog- 
ically, and he said: this is a fallen world. And in a fallen world 
everything is backwards. 

SINISTER FORCES 

[return to section) 

[11] Whitley’s Journal, “Sinister Forces in My Life”, 26 May 2011 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/sinister-forces-my-life 

[ 12 ] [- 10 : 39 ] 

COAST TO COAST AM 

[return to section) 

[13] The track listings for The Key audiobook were formerly on Amazon. 
A fast and breathless read-through based on Strieber’s own imita- 
tion of the Master of the Key’s speech done by the present author 
and a partner with no breaks or pauses between lines took two 
hours and ten minutes. 

[14] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20010420035026/http://www. 
whitehallprinting.com/FAQpp.html 

[15] Clear Talk with Constance Clear KENS Radio AM 1160 San Antonio 
12 Jan 2001 - Transcript from beyondcommunion.com 

WHITLEY: Oh yeah, well you know, you have a love hate rela- 
tionship with your books. As soon as I opened it I found typos. 
CONSTANCE: Oh no. 

WHITLEY: But, um, minor typos I might add. Because the fun 
part of this book was in this sense: It’s published by my own 
company and the cover design was by Louis Steiner, my web 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


master who is a good friend, and I set the type myself. So it’s a 
real labor of love. I wanted this really very close to me. I couldn’t 
see giving it to my publisher because they would want to come 
back and edit it. And the man said what he said. I can’t edit it. 
It’s uneditable. You have to just go with what was there. And 
I was sure that people would not understand some of it, they 
would want some of it to be changed, so I published it myself. 
[...] 

WHITLEY: Thanks. I chose the type and it was really fun, I 
mean for a writer to get involved in this level of it is very fun. 
To actually be sitting there and doing that typesetting on the 
computer. I mean I hasten to add I wasn’t sitting in a little room 
with lead type... 

[laughter] 

WHITLEY: ...I was sitting at a computer with PageMaker. But it 
was as close to that experience as you can get in modern times. 
It was fun. 

[16] The ‘censored’ Walker & Collier was being given away to new sub- 
scribers in February 2012. 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/new-subscribers-get-collectors- 
item- original-key 


PART THREE 

PROBLEMS WITH THE SCENARIO 

[return to section! 

[1] For general information, see: 

https://en.wikipedia.Org/wiki/Autobiographical_memory#Temporal_ 

components 

https://en.wikipedia.Org/wiki/Flashbulb_memory#Stability_over_time 

[2] Strieber has been fairly consistent on this point. Comments from 
his whitleysworld.com site in 2000 reprinted by the now-defunct 
beyondcommunion.com suggest he did not begin serious work on 


612 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


the book until the second half of 2000: 

Whiteysworld News 14 Sept 2000: 

I have begun my book about the lengthy encounter in Toronto 
that took place in June of 1998. Unlike the recent event, the 
reality of this one isn’t in question. It was with a human being 
who possessed incredible knowledge, and who appeared almost 
magically in my hotel room at three in the morning. I was wide 
awake. I took notes. 

Likewise in a 2011 interview, (Paratopia 116, “Whitley Strieber: The 
Key”, 13 May 2011 [-12:20]), he said: 

I did try to blow it off for two years after I arrived home the next 
afternoon. For two years I didn’t write a word down. I just had 
those notes stuck in a drawer and I didn’t want to deal with it. 

And in the Tarcher Introduction: 

So perhaps my initial refusal to accept that the Master of the 
Key was real, the delay of two years before I actually even tran- 
scribed the conversation, and my long hesitancy about publica- 
tion, have actually been governed by the grandfather paradox. 

[3] Whitley’s Journal, “Encounter of June 6, 1998”, 20 Jul 1998 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/encounter-june-6-1998 

[4] Strieber on the language used by the Master of the Key and its 
effects: 

Spooky Southcoast, “Whitley Strieber”, 28 May 2011 [-9:10] 

What the man said, a lot of the material is really extremely 
subtle. On the surface it’s perfectly straightforward. But a lot 
of the things that he said have resonance, lots of multi-dimen- 
sional resonances and depth. 

Dreamland, “The Censorship of The Key”, 19 May 2011 [-35:45] 


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I wracked my brain for a long time trying to remember what 
he said about monsters in the world of the dead. I know he 
said something. But I just can’t capture it. I can capture it in 
images, but not in words. And there were a lot of things — a lot 
of things that happened that night, there were sounds he made 
that I couldn’t interpret that seemed to be connected somehow 
to words. It was a real hyperdimensional experience in many 
ways, let me put it that way. 

[5] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20010124114300/http://www.21stcenturyradi0. 
com/cni-scidebextra.html 

[6] In the Afterword to the Tarcher, Strieber writes: 

As I rose from the bed, I saw my yellow notepad on the floor, 
covered with scrawls. It had been in my briefcase when I went 
to bed, so I must have pulled it out and taken notes. I grabbed it 
and looked at them. 

And in this interview Strieber says: 

Spooky Southcoast “Whitley Strieber” 28 May 2011 [-20:20]: “I had 
taken a few sort of scriggly notes that I had there lying on the 
floor.” 

[7] Whitley’s Journal, “The June 6, 1998 Experience: Update”, l Nov 

1998 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/june-6-1998-experience- 

update 

[8] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20040905061332/http://seancasteel.c0m/ 
toronto.htm 

[9] See for example Paratopia 116, “Whitley Strieber: The Key”, 13 May 
2011 [-22:45]: “The man was extremely happy. He was joyous in 
a way that makes you want to sing even to remember it after all 
these years.” 

[10] “The Key, Part Six” [-7:55] “5’6 or 5’7” 

“The Key, Part One” [-1:12] “5*7 perhaps, 5’8 maybe” 


614 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


The precise dates of these audio commentaries are no longer avail- 
able since the unknowncountry.com website revamped itself, using 
a generic January l, 2004, date for a number of files. According to 
an archived news page, “The Key, Part Four” audio commentary 
was posted 20 Jun 2003. The preceding three appear to have been 
posted sometime in 2003, with the remaining three (parts five, six, 
and seven) in 2004. 

[11] Tarcher, Introduction 


PART FOUR 

PROBLEMS WITH THE CONVERSATION 

[return to section) 

[1] In a question-and-answer section on the promotional website for 
The Key, Anne Strieber wrote: 

A. This is Anne. He called me the next morning and said he’d 
had an amazing meeting with a man who seemed to know the 
future. Then he said that he was going to write it all out on 
the plane home, and also that I should always remind him of 
this call whenever he decided that the man didn’t exist. We both 
knew that he likes to blow off his strange experiences. He wants 
a ‘normal’ life. When he came in he hadn’t written anything 
down. He said he had some notes. But he did nothing about it 
for years except try from time to time to track the man down. 
Finally, he took out the notes and started transcribing from 
them. It was only a single page of a legal pad, and I didn’t see 
how the notes related to anything. But they worked for him. As 
far as the event occurring, I believed him implicitly. He was not 
making anything up at all. 

http://www.motkbook.com/questions-answers/ 

Strieber also says his notes consisted of a page in his Journal: 

What was so odd about this process was that I had nothing but 
a page of cryptic, seemingly irrelevant notes that I had taken 


615 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


during the meeting, and yet I was able to remember, just by 
looking them over from time to time, all the details of what was 
said. 

Whitley’s Journal, “The Majesty of The Key”, 20 Sept 2005 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/majesty-key 

[2] Coast to Coast AM with George Knapp, 19 Jun 2011, hr 2 [-12:30] 

THE MISSING GURDJIEFF 

[return to sectionl 

[3] It is impossible to fully separate Gurdjieff from Ouspensky in the 
latter’s In Search of the Miraculous. However accurate Ouspensky 
was in his book, what we get of Gurdjieff always comes through 
the filter of Ouspensky with Gurdjieff the man viewed through 
Ouspensky’s eyes and Gurdjieff’s words presented by Ouspensky in 
the form of hearsay. For this reason, I will often use the invented 
hybrid name of Gurdjieff-Ouspensky as source for Strieber’s ideas 
when they appear to derive from Miraculous. I will use the name 
Gurdjieff alone when referring to the Gurdjieffian body of teach- 
ings more generally. It is important to note that for all Strieber 
borrows from Gurdjieff in The Conversation, Strieber’s Gurdjieffian 
outlook is distinctly his own. He is not a doctrinaire Gurdjieffian as 
likely shown by the fact of his exit from the New York group. Gurd- 
jieff’s ideas appear often to be adapted-for-purpose by Strieber. But 
however much the Gurdjieff in Strieber’s work is simply Strieber’s 
own version of him, the important point is that the origin of the 
ideas is not with the Master of the Key. 

[4] Strieber’s involvement in the Gurdjieff work in New York seems to 
have begun in 1970, with Strieber ending full involvement around 
1983. In some accounts, he has said he was still involved, if dis- 
tantly, from 1983 until 1985 when his association with the New 
York group finally stopped. Strieber has given two or three differ- 
ent reasons why his participation in the group ended. See Winter’s 
1985 Faces of Fear interview and Conroy’s Report on Communion for 
the suggestion that Strieber may have been introducing too many 
non-Gurdjieffian ideas into the ‘work’, thus leading to his ouster. 


616 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[5] The term ‘anxiety of influence’ was first introduced into literary 
criticism by Harold Bloom, who theorized that poets employ a 
variety of strategies to deal with the ‘anxiety’ of the knowledge 
that their work is not wholly original and that they are indebted to 
greater or lesser extents to past poets. 

[6] Strieber credits Buckminster Fuller for this notion countless times 
in his writings and in interviews. For example in this Journal: 

Another part of the preparation was my involvement in the 
Gurdjieff Foundation, where I learned about two fundamental 
and universal laws, the Law of Three that is the key to harmony, 
and the law that Buckminster Fuller called “the building block 
of the universe” and the Law of Seven that is the law of pro- 
gression across gaps via the use of shocks. 

Whitley’s Journal, “New Thoughts”, 10 Sept 2005 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/new-thoughts 

[7] Fuller ridicules the notion of a ‘building block’ often in his writ- 
ings. For those interested in what might be regarded as a true 
anti-synchronicity, here is Fuller in the first chapter of Critical 
Path: 

This concept and Darwin’s single-cell concept fitted neatly into 
humanity’s propensity for looking for “THE building block of 
the Universe” — people’s imagination is childishly stimulated 
at the idea of finding “THE KEY.” Spontaneously, we are sim- 
plistically inclined — it feeds the ego. “Oh, boy! If I had the 
key — what couldn’t I do?” (7) 

In her 1986 A Fuller Explanation, Amy Edmondson, who studied 
under Fuller and who wrote the first major academic study on 
Fuller, puts Fuller’s view concisely: 

There is no single building block of Universe. (179) 

We must abandon our building-block concept of structure in 
favor of comprehensive solutions which take advantage of the 
inherent qualities of tension and compression. (249) 


617 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


In fact, the closest thing to a ‘building block’ in the ordinary sense 
for Fuller was the tetrahedron. But the final, most fundamen- 
tal concept in his work appears to have been a left-handed and 
right-handed complementarity that generated space. 

It is worth noting that this kind of factual error occurs regularly 
in Strieber’s work. For instance, for many years Strieber has been 
lovingly offering up the exhortation from Meister Eckhart that we 
should all become as a “clear glass through which God can shine” 
(e.g. Afterword to The Key). But this phrase appears nowhere in 
English-language translations of Meister Eckhart including the 
Blakney which Strieber has in the past cited. Further, according to 
the Meister Eckhart Society, the quote does not belong to Eckhart 
and cannot belong to Eckhart because in Eckhart’s time clear, col- 
orless glass did not exist. (The line is instead traceable to a certain 
William Wisheart centuries later.) 

[8] It is interesting that the Master of the Key not only uses Gurd- 
jieffian terminology, putting him very close to Strieber intellec- 
tually, but the idiosyncratic terminology of the New York group of 
which Strieber was a part. Strieber dedicated his book The Path to 
Jeanne de Salzmann, among others, from his Gurdjieff group. De 
Salzmann preferred the term ‘reconciling’ to ‘neutralizing’, as for 
example, in her posthumously-published book The Reality of Being: 

But two forces alone are not enough. They are not related. A 
third, reconciling force needs to appear, a certain feeling that 
allows a relation and thus transforms everything. (71) 

[9] See the document Notes on Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous for 
a fuller treatment. 

[10] See chapter 1 in ISOM. The version of Gurdjieff relied on here is 
taken from Ouspensky. 

[11] Using concordance software, one finds “machine” used thirty-four 
times, “machines” thirteen times. 

Apart from words like ‘the’, the word most often used is: ‘God’. It 
appears some 143 times. 


618 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[12] “The Key, Part Two” audio commentary [-17:30] 

[13] Two sites selected at random: 

http://www.camino4.es/en/gurdjieff-4th-way/85-sensation-of-oneself 

http://www.endlesssearch.co.uk/exercises_sensing.htm 

[14] “The Key, Part Three” audio commentary [-23:10] 

[15] The End of the Line with Jeff Rense, 3 Jan 1997 interview for The 
Secret School, 2nd hour [-33:30] 

[16] A New Model of the Universe, Chapter Two: The Fourth Dimension 

[17] Whitley’s Journal, “Encounter of June 6, 1998”, 20 July 1998 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/encounter-june-6-1998 

[18] “Whitley Strieber And The Toronto Experience” © 1998 Sean 
Casteel 

[19] Coast to Coast AM 27 July 1998 

[20] “Whitley Strieber And The Toronto Experience” © 1998 Sean 
Casteel 

[21] “Whitley Strieber: Toronto Encounter Alters His Perspective On 
“Visitors” and Coming Catastrophe”, Michael Lindemann, CNI 
News, August 5, 1998 

[22] Point made by unknown author: 

https://wmjas.w0rdpress.c0m/2009/05/25/saint-sernin-basilica-the- 

tarot-of-marseilles-and-whitley-strieber/ 

http://www.tarothermeneutics.com/classes/articles/relatedstrieber.pdf 

[23] See Jeanne de Salzmann’s The Reality of Being: The Fourth Way of 
Gurdjieff (Boston, MA: Shambala Publications, 2010), 236 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


STRIEBER’S HOLOGRAM: MICHAEL TALBOT 

[return to section) 

[24] http://www.rense.com/general69/holoff.htm 

EVERYTHING HE SAID WAS NOT NEW 

[return to section) 

[25] Ed Conroy, Report on Communion: The Facts Behind the Most Con- 
troversial True Story of Our Time (New York, NY: Avon Books, 1989), 

84-87 

[26] Quoted in Conroy, 86 

[27] “Conference with Whitley Strieber”, CompuServe New Age Forum, 
19 Jun 94 

http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/whitcis.html 

[28] The End of the Line with Jeff Rense, 3 Jan 1997 interview for The 
Secret School, 1st hour [-22:50] 

[29] The End of the Line with Jeff Rense, 3 Jan 1997 interview for The 
Secret School, 2nd hour [-12:25] 

[30] “Interview with Whitley Strieber: The Secret School” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[31] “The Key, Part One” audio commentary [-18:55] 

[32] “Whitley Strieber Discusses The Communion Letters” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[33] Conroy, 340-341 

[34] http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/social-engineering-and- 
persecution-ufo-and-close-encounter-witnesses 

[35] The Yoga Aphorisms ofPatanjali (Madras, India: Vedanta Society of 
Southern California, 1953), 80 

http://estudantedavedanta.net/Yoga-Aphorisms-of-Patanjali.pdf 


620 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[36] skeptictank.0rg/files/mys4/0prah.htm 

Communion had been available for around four months at the time 
of this media appearance. Surprisingly, no question is put to Strie- 
ber about his alien encounters on the show and Strieber is simply 
identified as ‘author’. 

[37] As will be touched on later, Strieber was cracking the code of the 
Zodiac in The Coming Global Superstorm, deciphering the symbolic 
meaning of the various zodiacal signs. But that code-cracking was 
somewhat at odds with the material in The Conversation, and more 
consistent instead with material from early accounts that did not 
make it into The Conversation. 

[38] The Agony Column Podcast, “A 2012 Interview with Whitley Strie- 
ber”, 12 Mar 2012 [-37:28] 

[39] Dec 1994 email posted to CompuServe forum: 

http://www.v-j-enterprises.eom/whitley.html#Harrassment 

[40] “Whitley Strieber Discusses The Communion Letters” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[41] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20120804045247/http://www. 
communionenigma.com/questions-answers/ 

Strieber was also making the point in Breakthrough: 

I also saw a thing that I had not expected, that not all souls 
persist, that the immortal potential is more fragile than we have 
dared to face, (ch 14) 

[42] See Gary Lachman’s In Search ofP. D. Ouspensky (Wheaton, Illinois: 
Quest Books, 2004). Ouspensky was strongly influenced by Hinton 
and, as Lachman points out, he translated several of the Hinton’s 
works. Perhaps Hinton’s most famous book was An Episode of Flat- 
land or How a Plane Folk Discovered the Third Dimension (1907). 

[ 43 ] http://www.v-j-enterprises.eom/whitley.html#Sheldon 


621 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


[44] “Interview with Whitley Strieber: The Secret School” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[45] Dreamland 1995-11-19 [-3:30] 

John Lear has separately stated in online forums that Strieber told 
him as much. Lear posted in July 2006: 

The following is an opinion: if you go into the light, you go into 
the ‘soul catcher’ which can keep the soul for a time or sent 
it to a new born baby on earth. I don’t know what happens if 
you go away from the light. Many years ago in a very private 
conversation with Whitely Strieber he told me, “Whatever you 
do don’t go into the light.” Am I going into the light? Yes. 

http://www.abovetopsecret.eom/forum/thread215767/pg2#pid2330726 

And from this thread in November 2011: 

Whitley Streiber was the one who told me that ‘the light’ was a 
trick of the grays. He suggested that we not go towards the light. 

http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1468214/ 

pgi27#28o6i269 

[46] “The Key, Part One” audio commentary [-36:45] 

[47] “The Key, Part Two” audio commentary [-9:58] 

[48] Whitley’s Journal, “The Reason for the Secrecy”, 25 Aug 2000 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/reason-secrecy 

[49] https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/whitley-strieber-4/ 
majestic/ 

[50] Feeding The Conversation into concordance software, one finds the 
interesting feature that the word ‘remember’ appears no fewer 
than twenty- six times. The Master of the Key is constantly telling 
the Whitley character to ‘remember’ this or that fact in support 
of a given line of argument or in order to refer back to a previ- 


622 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


ous point in the discussion. But reading the discourse behind the 
discourse, what one sees with this unusual frequency is Strieber 
urging himself on during the composition process: ‘Remember... 
remember.. .remember’. Of course, by ‘remember’ he was telling 
himself to imagine. 

[51] “Whitley Strieber Discusses The Communion Letters” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[52] “Whitley Strieber, Confirmation Transcript” © 1998 Sean Casteel 

[53] Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell 10 Feb 1998 

[54] “Interview with Whitley Strieber: The Secret School” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[55] “Whitley Strieber Discusses The Communion Letters” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[56] “Whitley Strieber, Confirmation Transcript” © 1998 Sean Casteel 

[57] ibid. 

[58] “Live Chat May 29, 1998 at 8:00pm ET (30 min)” 

https://web.archive.0rg/web/20010415180019/http://beyondcommunion. 

com/CONFIRM/980529.html 

[59] “Whitley Strieber, Confirmation Transcript” © 1998 Sean Casteel 

[60] Dreamland, “Jim Marrs: The Fate of the Nation from the Founders 
to Iraq”, 27 Jun 2014 [-13:30] 

[61] “Conference with Whitley Strieber”, CompuServe New Age Forum, 
19 Jun 94 

http://www.v-j-enterprises.com/whitcis.html 

[62] ibid. 

[63] ibid. 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


[64] Strieber has told a certain lengthy story a number of times about 
a strange man who contacted him by telephone and warned him 
about the ‘grays’. Strieber tracked down the man’s location and it 
was a U.S. Department of Defense facility. Strieber has also claimed 
he was shown a photo of the man and that from the photo the man 
was clearly not human. 

Here is Strieber beginning one telling of the tale at the start of a 
subscriber special dated 22 Aug 2012 entitled “War with the Grays”: 

[0:15] I had a contact over the telephone — a 45-minute conver- 
sation — with someone I am convinced was not human. Was a 
blond. For a lot of reasons. Not the least of which is I could see 
where the person was sitting and what he looked like when I 
talked to him, while I was talking to him, in my mind’s eye. 
Very strange experience. This man told me the following story. 
He warned me about the Grays. He said that if you ever start a 
war with them, they will never let you lose, they will never let 
you win, they will never let you stop fighting. Ever. It will go on 
as long as you exist. And he said that, contextually, his voice 
was as sad as any I have ever heard in my life. And I thought to 
myself, he’s speaking from experience. This is where his world 
is. But now here’s the strange thing. He was one of these blonds 
[-.] 

Strieber also has written of the Blonds and their ability to travel 
here in a similar vein: 

Another group who play an extensive role in the story are the 
blondes. I had a great deal of interaction with them, including 
a long conversation with one of them — physical conversation, 
which they can carry out easily, unlike the grays — during which 
he described his reasons for distrusting and disliking the grays 
in the most vivid terms possible. 

He also said that we must not make the mistake of trying to 
fight them, or we’d end up in the state his people are in, locked 
in an eternal war that they can neither win nor end. He ex- 
plained — and my life with the grays certainly confirmed this — 
that you have one chance with them, and one only. If you miss 


624 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


the mark, that’s it: mistake made, end of story. 

In the story, the way that the blondes move between here and 
their home is depicted as accurately as I am able. They do not 
use or need vehicles at all. They use them for local travel only- 
-say, within our solar system. For movement back and forth to 
their home, they use another method that will surprise you very 
much. 

Whitley’s Journal, “The Grays”, 27 Jul 2006 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/grays 

[65] “COMMUNION WITH WHITLEY STRIEBER: Interview by Leigh 
Blackmore and Keith Curtis”. Terror Australis No 2 (1988). 

https://www.scribd.com/doc/23213635/Communion-With-Whitley- 

Strieber 

[66] ibid. 

[67] Whitley’s Journal, “Resurrection and the Tomb of Jesus”, 6 Mar 
2007 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/resurrection-and-tomb-jesus 

Strieber also refers to the triune brain expressly here: 

Whitley’s Journal, “A New Chance”, 13 Jun 2008 
http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/new-chance 

And hints of Strieber’s view appear perhaps as far back as Com- 
munion: 

It was as if my forebrain had been separated from the rest of my 
system, and all that remained was a primitive creature, in effect 
the ape out of which we evolved long ago. 

I was not, however, in the ape. I was in my forebrain, locked 
away from the rest of myself. My mind had become a prison. 
(One) 


625 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


It is worth noting that ‘three-brained beings’ is a concept that 
appears in Gurdjieff’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (1950). 

[68] Whitley’s Journal, “The Millenium is-Well, It’s Here”, 2 Jan 2000 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/millenium-well-its-here 

SCIENCE NEWS 

[return to section) 

[69] http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-06-018731-6 

[70] “The Key, Part Six” [-16:35] 

[71] “The Key, Part Seven” [-18:45] 

[72] The Unexplained 196, “Whitley Strieber”, 9 Mar 2015 [-56:30] 

[73] https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028161.600-united-plates-0f- 
america-the-making-of-a-new-world/ 

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-dating-panama- 

formations-cast-doubt-ice-age-origins/ 

[74] http://oceans.mit.edu/news/featured-stories/big-cats-panama- 
armadillos-story-climate-life 

http://0nlinelibrary.wiley.c0m/d0i/10.1029/2007PA001574/full 

[75] Radiovalve, “devslashnull and E23 in conversation with Whitley 
Strieber, author of Confirmation: Hard Evidence of Aliens Among 
Us”, [24:48] 

https://web.archive.0rg/web/19990128134745/http://radiovalve.net/ 

interviews/strieber.html 

[76] Whitley’s Journal, “What I Believe”, 12 Jan 1998 
http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/what-i-believe 

[77] Strieber’s recovered memories of prophetic visions from childhood 
about Ben Bulben and the coming ice age are rendered suspect 


626 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


when it is considered that he was writing in Pain : 

Even a small nuclear war might touch off atmospheric changes 
that would lead to cooling short of “nuclear winter,” but intense 
enough to cause the one fatal summer of snow that could lead to 
a new ice age. After Kennedy’s death a famous Scottish prophet 
saw the snows spreading down from Ben Bulben to cover the 
whole world. Other prophets have also seen snows. 

[78] In Appendix Three - Gaelic in Transformation, Strieber writes: 

One of the most interesting and unusual findings in Transforma- 
tion is Leonard Keane’s discovery that the star language spoken 
by Betty Andreasson Luca when she was under hypnosis might 
have been Gaelic. [...] With Mr. Keane’s permission, I record here 
his glossary of the “star language.” All phonetic renderings are 
taken from The Andreasson Affair and were created by Mr. Fowler. 
I have listened to the original tapes and found that he did a 
careful and accurate job of transcription. (251) 

But the line between who translated the text and who did not has 
sometimes been blurry. Strieber has at least once suggested he 
paid for the translation to be done, and at least once suggested he 
did it himself. This latter seems to bleed over into his wife Anne’s 
account: 

When Whitley published Transformation, he wrote down some 
of the “star language” that Betty Andreasson had heard “aliens” 
speaking during her UFO encounter. Using a Gaelic-English 
dictionary that he found in a dusty old bookstore downtown that 
was going out of business, he translated it as “Children of the 
Northern peoples, you wander in eternal darkness.” This espe- 
cially interested him because the Irish (whose original language 
is Gaelic) are famous for seeing fairies, elves and “little folk.” 

Anne’s Diary, “Ogham”, 18 Oct 2011 
http://www.unknowncountry.com/diary/ogham 

[79] “Whitley Strieber on the Outbreak of Storms”, 27 Apr 2011 


627 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Strieber’s April 2011 audio program for subscribers is an extempo- 
raneous lecture on climate. Early on in the program he credits the 
Master of the Key for the climate change scenario he is warning 
his listeners about: 

[-6:20] I remember very well when the Master of the Key spoke 
about this. There was a gravity in his voice. Mostly when he 
spoke to me, there was a joy in his tone. It was — kind of bub- 
bled with excitement and joy. He was wonderful to listen to. But 
when he began to speak about climate change, his tone lowered 
and it became very grave. And now I know why. This is all hap- 
pening just as he said it would. 

But the Master of the Key never said anything about methane. Nor 
did he say anything about melting Siberian permafrost or giant 
sinkholes or other lurid details integrated into Strieber’s 2011 
climate change scenario. Nevertheless, Strieber describes these 
climate facts in the context of the Master of the Key’s scenario 
as if they were predicted by him, explaining, among other things, 
that “[-7:20] methane is thirty times more potent as a greenhouse 
gas than carbon dioxide”. 

[80] Open Minds UFO Radio, “Whitley Strieber, The Key”, 17 May 2011 
[- 4530 ] 

[81] In 2011, Strieber declared that this advance in computer technology 
involving nitrous oxide was bearing out the Master of the Key’s 
advice: 

It was not a joke. My research between 1998 and 2000 when I 
actually produced my private publication of the Key turned up a 
few hints that there might be something in his statement, but in 
2005 a very specific discovery was announced, to the effect that 
reoxidized nitrous oxide could be used as a gate dielectric for 
charge-trapping nonvolatile memory. So he was right. Nitrous 
oxide will indeed “bear memory.” 

Here, unfortunately, Strieber is relying on the ignorance of his 
readers and is indulging in either ignorance or disingenuousness of 
his own. The 2005 ‘discovery’ published in the paper by Kim, Kim, 


628 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


and Seo amounted less to a revolutionary change in nonvolatile 
memory chip design than to a proposal to use nitrous oxide on a 
single layer of such chips. According to the paper, a wide variety 
of compounds are already in use as gate dielectrics. All such com- 
pounds by Strieber’s standard “bear memory”. 

See: http://bckim.gntech.ac.kr/MEE4124.pdf 

[82] http://science.sciencemag.0rg/c0ntent/258/5090/1861 

[83] http://www.math.utah.edu/~bresslof/publications/97-5.pdf 

[84] http://www.tandf0nline.c0m/d0i/abs/10.1088/0954-898X_8_1_003 

[85] http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/13/us/three-americans-awarded-nobel- 
for-discoveries-of-how-a-gas-affects-the-body.html 

[86] http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-1-4471-1599-1_153 

STRIEBER AND THE GOSPELS 

[return to section! 

[87] “The Key, Part Two” [-10:30] 

[88] Grateful acknowledgment to Dr. Robert M. Price. See his website: 

robertmprice.mindvendor.com 

[89] Strieber has drawn attention to this aspect of the Master of the 
Key’s demeanor many times. See for example Paratopia 116: 

[-22:45] The man was extremely happy. He was joyous in a way 
that makes you want to sing even to remember it after all these 
years. 

[90] “The Key, Part Three” [-19:18] 

[91] “The Key, Part Four” [-3:15] 

[92] “The Key, Part Five” [-10:15] 

[93] Coast to Coast AM with George Knapp, 19 Jun 2011, hr 2 [~8:io] 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


[94] New World Translation: 

https://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/nwt/books/matthew/17/ 

[95] “Whitley Strieber Discusses The Communion Letters” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[96] Whitley’s Journal, “The Secret of Real Faith”, 6 Apr 2004 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/secret-real-faith 

[97] A connection that cannot be explored here is the extent to which 
Strieber was influenced by Frazer and The Golden Bough. Strieber 
has referred to Frazer’s book more than once, for example, in his 
story Pain. Certain of Strieber’s assertions seem to harken back to 
Frazer, and his concerns about the similarities between Mithraism 
and Christianity may stem from there. 

OTHER PROBLEMS 

[return to sectionl 

[98] Levengood was connecting crop circles with plasmas at least as far 
back as 1994: 

http://www.bltresearch.com/published/anatomical.php 

Linda Moulton Howe was reporting on Levengood’s research 
throughout the 1990s. Her 2001 book Mysterious Lights and Crop 
Circles featured an interview with Levengood. 

[99] The two ideas merged in The Key — that crop circles are caused by 
plasmas and that crop circles reflect higher-dimensional geome- 
try — appeared on a number of sites in the period. A selection: 

http://www.divinecosmos.com/start-here/articles/242-incredible-new- 

crop-circle-shows-hd-geometry 

http://www.cropcircleresearch.com/articles/shapes.html 

http://www.cropcirclesecrets.org/education.html 

https://web.archive.0rg/web/20090721054105/http://www.bltresearch. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


com/published/dispersion. php 
http://www.cropfiles.it/docs/Crops_Physics.pdf 
http://www.cropcircleconnector.com/anasazi/fringe2013b.html 
http://dwij.org/pathfinders/linda_moulton_howe/linda_mh9.htm 

[100] https://books.google.it/books?id=lSjiAAAAMAAJ&lpg=PA24&ots 
=P_FDOdwhsu&dq=larson%20%22the%20great%20osiris%22&pg=PA24# 
v=onepage&q=larson%20%22the%20great%20osiris%22&f=false 

[101] The New York Times article Strieber draws from can be found here: 

http://www.nytimes.c0m/1995/04/04/science/the-c0re-0f-the-earth- 

may-be-a-gigantic-crystal-made-of-iron.html 

Here is a link to an item from the following year announcing that 
the single -crystal core hypothesis had been ‘disproved’: 

http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/96legacy/iron.html 

[102] See for example: 

http://www.iflscience.com/space/mars-atmosphere-study-reveals-how- 

it-turned-habitable-world-dead-planeto/ 

[103] Whitley’s Journal, “Missing Time and the Future”, 19 Jul 2006 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/missing-time-and-future 

[104] This silly speculation — that the Master of the Key might have 
been Strieber from the future — rather fails when one considers 
that Strieber ought to have recognized his own face, even if aged a 
few decades. But Strieber has entertained the notion many times. 
In the Introduction to the Tarcher, Strieber writes of the Master 
of the Key coming from the future, saying: “In fact, I might even 
be him.” In at least two interviews from 2011, Strieber attributed 
the speculation to his wife. See Open Minds UFO Radio, “Whitley 
Strieber, The Key”, 17 May 2011: [-55:15] and Night Fright, “A Com- 
munion with Whitley Strieber”, 18 May 2011: [-36:05], 


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One gets the impression that this speculation is Strieber’s way of 
coming as close to possible to admitting that it is he who invented 
The Conversation and the Master of the Key. With his saying he is 
the Master of the Key from th e futur e one need only cross out a 
phrase for the basic truth to become visible. And when others, 
whether Strieber’s wife or talk show hosts, gently suggest the idea 
that the Master of the Key is he, it is out of the recognition that 
the ideas in The Conversation are distinctively Strieber’s without 
accusing him of making it all up outright. 


PART FIVE 

DATING THE TARCHER 

[return to section) 

[1] Whitley’s Journal, “Easter, 2002”, 30 Mar 2002 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/easter-2002 

[ 2 ] http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/you-may-own-conscious- 
computer-someday 

[3] From early on, Strieber appears to have been determined to see 
his ‘implant’ in a positive light, describing in various ways his 
attempts to put it to use. 

The intrusive nature of the implant phenomenon worries me. 
I want to believe that this is all to the good, but it’s not easy, 
given that this seems such a terrific invasion of privacy. 

Whitley’s Journal, “What I Believe”, 12 Jan 1998 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/what-i-believe 

In a 2005 Journal entry, Strieber says he uses the implant as a tool 
and it allows him to travel to other worlds: 

Another great event for me has been, as it has turned out, the 
placement of the implant in my left ear. The video of the attempt 
to remove this is already archived in the subscriber section of 
Unknowncountry, so you can watch it if you wish. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Looking back, I consider the doctor’s failure to remove the little 
white disk that moved off into the tissue of my ear when he 
touched it with his scalpel as one of the luckiest breaks I ever 
had. 

I have learned how to use this implant — at least, begun to — and 
I see it now as a tremendous and powerful gift, a technologi- 
cal device that has freed me from the bondage and illusion of 
space-time and enabled me to travel in realms undreamed. 

It is not a mind control device, nor does it read my mind. I know 
this because I have learned to turn it on and off myself, and to 
begin to use it as what it is: a tool. 

[...] 

But I am not afraid. I can take it. Have taken it. I have stolen this 
fire that was put in my head, and will spend the rest of my life 
learning to use it and using it. 

Here are some of the things I have learned to use it for: 

l. Observe other worlds. I can lie down, collect my thoughts, 
gather my attention as I have taught in the meditation series 
in our subscriber section, and see rich, almost television-like 
images of life on other planets. Usually, I cannot see the beings, 
only their artifacts. Sometimes I can see them as well, but that’s 
hard because it involves much more than just looking. There is a 
level of interaction that I am just now learning. The problem is 
that the contact is so personal and so startling that it backs me 
out of the whole process. But I’m getting past that. 

Whitley’s Journal, “New Thoughts”, 10 Sep 2005 
http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/new-thoughts 

As recently as 2016, Strieber was writing that his implant is in- 
teracting with him in ‘wonderful’ ways and even allowing him to 
communicate with his dead wife: 

I think that somebody who was capable of moving me out of 
my body and controlling my flight listened to that talk and 
responded. In recent months, my implant has been turning on 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


a lot, and all sorts of wonderful things happening as a result. I 
suspect that this is another one of those things. 

Anne was always absolutely certain that the implant was a good 
thing. She was dead against my getting it removed and made me 
promise, after the failed attempt, to never touch it again. I’m 
glad that I made that promise, because, since her passing, it has 
been instrumental, I believe, in facilitating the rich communi- 
cation between us. 

I consider it a piece of technology that links different levels of 
reality, and every hour and every day of my life, I am grateful 
that it is with me, and so very glad that Anne’s intuition was 
so accurate. We removed just enough of it to be certain that it 
was there, and for the doctor to confirm that it is a completely 
unknown object. The video of the removal attempt is hosted in 
the subscriber area of this website. 

Whitley’s Journal, “An OBE with a Materialization”, 17 Sep 2016 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/obe-materialization 

[4] Another reason to think that Fragmentary Inclusions represents 
early material is its mention of Helium-3. Helium-3 is not men- 
tioned often in Strieber’s work. But it does appear in two ‘clusters’. 
The second is in 2006-2007 when it is mentioned in a Journal (www. 
unknowncountry.com/journal/war-dreamland) and in his novel The 
Grays. Before that it is only mentioned in his 1997 The Secret School. 
The earlier mention together with the discussion of Hamlet’s Mill 
raise the possibility that the Fragmentary Inclusions may in fact be 
an early attempt to do a ‘transcription’. 

THE COMPOSITION OF THE KEY 

[return to section) 

[5] Posted on Whitley’s World message board 11 Oct 2000. Retrieved 
from beyondcommunion.com. 

[6] Posted on Whitley’s World message board 21 Oct 2000. Retrieved 
from beyondcommunion.com. 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


[7] Excerpt from Whitleysworld News e-mail newsletter 27 Oct 2000. 
Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. 

[8] Strieber’s editor for The Key at Tarcher/Penguin, Mitch Horowitz, 
was kind enough to respond to an e-mail inquiry in February 
2016. According to Horowitz, though his recollection was not clear, 
Strieber may have sent a PDF and later a Microsoft Word file. The 
latter, he said, is typically what they requested for the production 
process. Horowitz said that Tarcher did not edit the text except to 
bring it in line with house style. He added that Strieber may have 
edited the text but he did not recall. 

WHAT IS THE KEY? 

[return to section] 

[9] Excerpt from Whitleysworld News e-mail newsletter 27 Oct 2000. 
Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. 

[10] Whitley’s Journal, “Crawling to Nirvana”, 5 Oct 2012 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/crawling-nirvana 

[11] Whitley’s Journal, “The Mystery of the Blue Book”, 21 Jan 2013 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/mystery-blue-book 


CONCLUSION 

[return to section] 

[1] In the December 1986 MUFON UFO Journal, Strieber wrote a piece 
entitled, “My Experiences with the Visitors” in which he presented 
himself for the first time to the UFO world: 

I am a writer, and I would like to introduce myself to the 
members of MUFON. I have had a number of experiences with 
apparent nonhuman visitors, and have written a book about this 
called Communion, to be published in April of 1987. 

Later in the piece he wrote: 

Before Warday I published four entertainment novels, among 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


them the bestsellers Wolfen and Hunger. While these were horror 
novels, I have certainly never been a believer in the occult. 

https://issuu.com/disclosureproject/docs/mufon_ufo_ 

journal_-_i986_i2._decemb 

One can only marvel at Strieber’s ‘honesty’ here given that in 1986 
he had already spent more than a decade doing meditation and 
studying the esoteric ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff, as well as experi- 
menting with the Tarot, wicca, and so on. 

[2] In January 2015, Strieber announced that he had been working on 
The Super Natural with Kripal, the book his publisher was calling 
it “the most important book on the paranormal since Charles Fort 
published the Book of the Damned in 1919”. Strieber read from his 
first chapter in a subscriber special dated 29 Jan 2015, “The Super 
Natural: a New Vision of the Unexplained”. 

[3] In his Mutants and Mystics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 
2011), Kripal repeats a number of questionable talking points from 
Strieber’s narrative. 

That Strieber’s career was ruined by South Park: 

His own publishing career was virtually ruined when a famous 
animated television show lampooned the anal-sexual dimen- 
sions of his visitor experiences and so destroyed his credibility 
with his readers. (327) 

That Strieber was raped: 

Whatever it was designed to do, it felt like a rape (later, he would 
have the courage to call it, without qualification, just that: “I 
was raped”). (309) 

That Strieber is “very honest”: 

Personally speaking now, I read Communion as a most remark- 
able literary expression of a very honest, traumatized man, who 
also happens to be a gifted writer, struggling very publicly and 


636 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


very honestly with a set of impossible experiences that can find 
no home in our present worldview and official culture. I also see 
a deeply moral man attempting to speak a set of very difficult 
truths about the soul and about the environment. (304) 

[4] In a story in Texas Monthly, Strieber called Kripal “the only person 
of any intellectual standing who’s ever understood my work”. 

http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/unidentified-scholarly-subject/ 

Strieber has also said of Kripal: 

“I would say he’s probably the world’s leading expert on me, in 
fact”. Subscriber special “The Super Natural: a New Vision of the 
Unexplained” 29 Jan 2013 [-0:50] 

“I have to tell you, I think he probably knows more about my work 
than almost anybody I have ever talked to”. Dreamland “The True 
Mystery of the Unknown” 15 Jan 2011 [~oi:oo] 

Of Mutants and Mystics: “the best thing about my work that’s ever 
been written by anybody”. Dreamland “Mutants and Mystics, 
Dreamland’s mill Show!” 11 Nov 2011 [-12:30] 

While Kripal’s work can be a pleasure to read, his scholarship is 
not without issues. Kripal asserts in a 2014 article for the academic 
journal Social Research that legendary French philosopher Jacques 
Derrida (1930-2004) came to a “late-in-life acceptance of tele- 
pathic phenomena” (898). Kripal cites a piece by Derrida entitled 
“Telepathy”. His citation: 

Derrida, Jacques. 2007. “Telepathy.” In Derrida, Psyche: Inven- 
tions of the Other, Volume 1, edited by Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth 
Rottenberg, translated by Nicholas Royle. Stanford: Stanford 
University Press. 

There are a number of problems with Kripal’s assertion. For one, 
Derrida’s “Telepathy” actually first appeared in February 1981 
when Derrida was fifty years old and still had some twenty-three 
years to live. So a “late-in-life acceptance” is ruled out. While the 


637 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Psyche: Inventions of the Other volume did appear in 2007 just three 
years after Derrida’s death, “Telepathy” had already been in print 
for some twenty-five years. 

Second, and more significantly, while Derrida’s piece is entitled 
“Telepathy”, it is in no way a straightforward exposition of Der- 
rida’s thoughts on the subject. Rather, Derrida is doing what he 
spent most of his career doing: affecting a literary-philosophical 
pose in order to ‘deconstruct’ a given discourse, in this case, 
psychoanalysis. In the piece, Derrida writes as Freud, in a sense 
lampooning Freud’s own “late-in-life” conclusion that telepathy 
existed. Derrida writes as if Freud’s lectures and writings were his 
own, mixing in The Forsyte Saga, Plato, and more, deconstructing 
psychoanalysis by inhabiting and ridiculing Freud’s belief in telep- 
athy as a logocentric faith in the metaphysics of presence. 

See: Kripal, J. “Better Horrors: From Terror to Communion in 
Whitley Strieber’s Communion (1987).” Social Research: An Interna- 
tional Quarterly 81, no. 4 (2014): 897-920. (accessed March 5, 2017) 

[5] “The Key, Part Four” [-1:45]: 

If I have done anything in this life at all that’s worth doing it 
is the creation of The Key. And this is my great work. This is 
probably why I was born. 

[6] [Confirm quote] Strieber has stressed the seeming normalcy of the 
encounter at the same time he has discussed its ‘hyperdimensional’ 
aspects. For example: 

Coast to Coast AM 19 Jun 2011 Hr 4 [-14:40] 

He just seemed so ordinary. I mean, he seemed like a regular 
person. 

Spooky Southcoast 28 May 2011 [-30:55] 

I didn’t think he was an alien or anything while I was talking to 
him. [...] He still just seems so human to me. I can’t believe he 
could be anything but a person. 


638 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER 

[return to section) 

I M AG I N ATI O N 

[7] Paul Gagne interview quoted in New York Times excerpt from The 
Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of : How Science Fiction Conquered the World 
by Thomas M. Disch: 

http://www.nytimes.eom/books/first/d/disch-dreams.html 

In Transformation (1988), Strieber tried to repair the damage done 
by his admission about the Whitman shooting in Communion and 
reversed his position, affirming that he had been on the campus 
that day: 

I carried out an extensive investigation. I found that I was 
not registered in summer school on the Austin campus of the 
University of Texas, where the incident had taken place. Since 
I lived in San Antonio at the time, 1 needed a motive to place 
myself in Austin. Had I gone up to see friends? To take a test? 
That was possible; I was enrolled in a couple of courses by mail. 

I discovered a reason for going to Austin on August 1. It was 
the hundredth anniversary of Sholtz’s, a popular UT gathering 
place. Like hundreds of other students, I could have been up for 
the centenary celebration. If so, though, I thought that I would 
have been seen by somebody. I couldn’t find a soul who could 
place me on the campus. However, I remembered seeing one 
friend, James Bryce, standing in the doorway of the student 
union during the sniper attack. He stepped back just as I ran 
forward and threw myself down beside a low wall. I asked Jim 
where he had been during the incident. He reported that he was 
in the student union and had spent a short time in the doorway. 
He hadn’t seen me. 

But I had managed to remember the exact location of another 
person who was there. Thus I must have myself been present. 
(93) 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Because of Strieber’s tendency to retroactively inject details into 
his narratives, it seems very possible that he had previously heard 
that Bryce had been in the student union, perhaps even in the 
doorway. Then years later at the time of Transformation, he ‘re- 
called’ seeing Bryce there as a way to support the idea of his own 
presence there. It is significant that Bryce did not see Strieber, and 
as shown, Strieber’s account appears to be false for other reasons, 
e.g. the non-existent boy on the bicycle. 

There is more reason to doubt Strieber about the Whitman shoot- 
ing. On one occasion Strieber seems to have simply lied about 
whether he was seen. In November 1989, Strieber participated in 
a roundtable discussion with Buzz Aldrin, Heinz Wolff, and others 
on a UK television program called After Dark. Quizzed by several 
panelists about his experiences and his credibility, the issue of 
Strieber’s Whitman shooting account was raised, and apparently 
succumbing to pressure, Strieber lied and said he had in fact been 
seen that day: 

[-25:00] Panelist: Whitley, you have, again in the same book, 
admitted to untruths in the past about other incidents. Fanta- 
sies, untruths. You for a number of years apparently told a story 
about being present on the University of Texas campus when a 
sniper killed a couple of girls. In your book, in Communion you 
said it was untrue. 

Strieber: Now would have I have said something like that in 
the book if I had been trying to create a convincing picture of 
myself? 

Panelist: Well, isn’t it paradoxical, because you may well be 
telling the truth. You have already admitted on other occasions 
for dramatic effect or for whatever reasons, you have told inter- 
esting stories about being an eyewitness to a murder by sniper, 
two girls on a campus. [Strieber: I was in fact there — ] And now 
said your account of it was untrue. 

Strieber: You didn’t read the next book, Transformation. 

Panelist: When you said it was true again. 


640 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Strieber: It is true. And I can — What happened after I wrote 
Communion was that people were telling me about things like 
screen memories. That a traumatic experience can be covered 
by a less traumatic memory. It’s a commonplace. And I briefly, I 
suppose to escape from the actual and very horrible memories 
of the Whitman incident at the University of Texas, had all but 
convinced myself that that had been a screen memory. Because 
when I asked the people whom I remembered seeing at the 
campus whether or not they remembered me being there, they 
all said no they did not remember me being there. However, I 
later found somebody who had a fairly clear memory of me being 
there. And what bothered me was after I wrote Communion, that 
particular memory seemed so vivid, I couldn’t convince myself 
that it was a screen memory. Finally, I found out actually what 
my motive for having been at the campus was. 

Panelist: The trouble with screen memories though — 

Moderator: Let’s clarify the position. First of all, you were there, 
then you were not there, then you — 

Strieber: I was there. After I wrote Communion, my faith in my 
own perceptions was sufficiently shaken for me to question 
whether or not these enormous events in my past were really 
what they seemed. And that was one of the ones I questioned. 
It’s as simple as that. 

Moderator: The form of your questioning was to say you were 
not there. Now you are saying you were there. 

Strieber: I know I was. 

Moderator: You were there. 

Panelist: But that could be a screen memory. So I mean, in the 
next book, you can shift the goalpost. It becomes a little like 
Carlos Castaneda then because in the Don Juan books you tend 
to get an entirely different perspective in each successive reve- 
lation of the truth. Which I think is a thing that bothers people. 
Because if you do contradict yourself in a book then you can 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


provide a perfectly plausible explanation in the next book for 
the reason why you contradicted yourself. 

Strieber: Why would I have contradicted myself if I wasn’t trying 
to be honest? That’s what interests me with type of line of ques- 
tioning when it comes up. It’s perfectly obvious what I should 
have done had I been making a hoax, is simply left the whole 
thing out. But instead of leaving it out, I put it in, and I put it in 
precisely because I wanted people to see the way in which this 
could derange one’s memory of one’s whole life experience. [...] 

After Dark, 18 November 1989 

https://youtu.be/w7FfwyU7i-A?t=25m2s 

Conroy, in his helpful, if too-sympathetic Report on Communion, 
examines the question about Strieber’s whereabouts that day at 
some length. Conroy found no one who saw Strieber at the scene of 
the shooting despite Strieber’s claim in the After Dark discussion. 
It is one of the major flaws of Conroy’s book that though Conroy 
quotes Strieber’s mother as saying Strieber was in Austin that day 
but not at the scene of the shooting, and though he quotes Strie- 
ber’s friend Jim Kunetka as saying Strieber had never quite been 
sure if he had been on campus that day even in the years before 
Communion, Conroy himself seems ill-disposed to critics like Budd 
Hopkins who point to the Whitman episode as sign of a possible 
problem with Strieber’s reliability. Conroy fails to examine Strie- 
ber’s accounts of the day in detail, and so misses obvious problem 
of the fictional boy on the bicycle. 

[8] Promotional material for The Grays at Associated Press: 

http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/Entertainment-LA-The-Grays- 

book/bcb6bii3fa7b43f986efifaaocb967f5 

[9] Autobiographical memory is considered on the whole to be reliable. 
While specific details can be highly inaccurate, people generally 
remember whether certain events have occurred in their lives or 
not: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobiographical_memory 


642 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


For Strieber, by contrast, autobiographical memory seems uniquely 
unreliable. 

[10] “COMMUNION WITH WHITLEY STRIEBER: Interview by Leigh 
Blackmore and Keith Curtis”. Terror Australis No 2 (1988). 

https://www.scribd.com/doc/23213635/Communion-With-Whitley- 

Strieber 

[11] “Interview with Whitley Strieber: The Secret School” © 1997 Sean 
Casteel 

[12] Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell, 27 July 1998 [-2:45:30] 

[13] “The Key, Part Two” [-31:15] 

[14] The Unexplained 196 [-37:00] 

[15] Paratopia 116 -[22:45] 

[16] Spooky Southcoast, 28 May 2011 [-33:00] 

[17] “The Key, Part Three” [-12:20] 

[18] “The Key, Part Three” [-19:40] 

[19] “The Key, Part Two” [-23:40] 

[20] “The Key, Part Three” [-30:00] 

[21] “The Key, Part Four” [-2:40] 

[22] Excerpt from Whitleysworld News e-mail newsletter 14 Sept 2000. 
Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. 

[23] Coast to Coast AM, Jun 2011, hr 2 [-2:50] 

[24] Night Fright, 18 May 2011 [-52:45] 

[25] Night Fright, 18 May 2011 [-53:45] 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


SELF-SERVING 

[return to sectionl 

[26] Dreamland, “David Ray Griffin: Why The Official Explanation of 
9/11 is Wrong”, 18 June 2005 [-10:08] 

[27] Dreamland, “The Killing of Osama bin Laden”, 6 May 2011 [-17:20]: 

I have some friends who were quite close to the Bush family. In 
fact, actually members of the family on the mother’s side. And 
I know that when he left office, George W. Bush was bitterly 
disappointed that he had failed to get Bin Laden. 

Dreamland, “Jim Marrs Takes on the 9/11 Commission”, 24 July 
2004 [3330]: 

Having been intimately involved in politics back in those days 
and when I was growing up, I was always, I felt like Watergate 
was a very minor affair compared to some of the things I’d seen. 

Dreamland, “Whitley Strieber and Jim Marrs: Secret Knowledge”, 
9 July 2005 [-19:45]: 

You know, I know a lot about that. As soon as I saw that article 
coming up on 60 Minutes, I knew Dan Rather was doomed. For 
a simple reason. I have a friend in Texas, a dear friend in Texas, 
who knows one of the National Guard officers who was present 
when George Bush’s records were destroyed. The very records 
that Rather said he had possession of. And they did not exist. 
However, the letter specifically from the general that Rather 
reported on was almost verbatim what I heard years ago was in 
those documents. 

[28] For what is likely a more honestly-given account of Strieber’s 
conversation with Connally: Subscriber special “Why do Members 
of the Power Elite want Us Dead?” 26 Jun 2014 [-8:45]: 

I knew the Connallys. I was one of the youth campaign man- 
agers for John Connally’s first gubernatorial campaign. And I 
sat in the governor’s office — I was in college at the time, and 


644 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


one of the outcomes of the successful campaign was that I got 
a nice part-time job in the capitol in the legislative reference 
library where I basically sat with a bunch of other boys in the 
back in the evenings looking at the porn that had been collected 
by some legislative committee, [laughter] But in any case, we 
would go to Connally’s office every once in a while when he was 
there in the evening and he would hold forth about politics and 
many other things. Unlike the Johnsons, the Connallys were 
nice people. John Connally was not a womanizing maniac like 
LBJ. So — when he was still with his arm in a sling, and was 
coming back to the governor’s office, we’d go back there, of 
course. No one would bring it up. We were afraid to bring it up. 
But we always hoped he’d say something, I mean, about the car. 
Finally, someone asked him outright, ‘Mr. Connally, what was it 
like?’ And he said: ‘Well, you know, there were bullets flying all 
over the place’. 

[29] Dreamland, “Col. John Alexander and Whitley Strieber: Every 
Secret Thing”, 22 Apr 2011 [-11:30] 

[30] “Whitley Strieber Moderated Chat CompuServe, May 7th, 1998, 9:47 
PM” Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. 

[31] Whitley’s World message board 11 Oct 2000. Retrieved from beyond 
communion.com. 

[32] Whitley’s Journal, “How to Aid the Tsunami Victims”, l Jan 2005 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/how-aid-tsunami-victims 

[ 33 ] See: www.dronehoax.com 

[34] Whitley’s Journal, “A Most Complex Encounter”, 11 Dec 2007 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/most-complex-encounter 

[35] Whitley’s Journal, “911 Five Years On: War and Illusions of War”, 11 
Sep 2006 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/911-five-years-war-and- 

illusions-war 

[36] Dreamland, “Joseph Farrell on the Saudis, 911 and 28 Explosive 


645 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Pages of Documents”, 15 Jul 2016 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/dreamland/joseph-farrell-saudis-911- 

and-28-explosive-pages-documents 

[37] http://www.unknowncountry.com/news/911-phone-calls-something- 
wrong-picture 

[38] Dreamland, “The Terror Conspiracy”, 21 Oct 2006 [-30:00] 

[39] Strieber’s tendency to inflate his own role is visible in even small 
details. For example, in this transcript of 2001 interview promoting 
The Key, Strieber is corrected by the editor of the beyondcommu- 
nion.com website: 

WHITLEY: Oh yeah I do. I like to read my books. Most of my 
books I’ve read myself. [Editor’s note: Not true, most were read 
by the late English actor Roddy McDowall.] Art Bell and I read 
Superstorm together which was a lot of fun. 

When considering the problems with Strieber and his accounts, 
this tendency is at the heart of the matter. His sense of self-im- 
portance combined with his own deep satisfaction with his own 
intelligence co-mingles with the tendency to inflate his role in 
more trivial details and manifests in ‘experiences’ that highlight 
his own singular, even world-historic role. A telling episode along 
these lines is what he told the ‘visitors’ during one of his Commu- 
nion abductions. Strieber certainly spoke from his ‘essence’ when 
he warned the visitors: “You’ll ruin a beautiful mind”. 

If I had been afraid before, I now became quite simply crazed 
with terror. I argued with them. “This place is filthy,” I remem- 
ber saying. Then, “You’ll ruin a beautiful mind.” I could imagine 
my family awakening in the morning and finding me a vegeta- 
ble. A great sadness overtook me. I do not recall screaming, but 
evidently I was doing so, because I remember the next exchange 
quite clearly. (One) 

Another instance of Strieber’s ‘candor’, he has been consistent 
about what he cried out during this episode. But in Communion, 
he couches his faithful report with material that does not exactly 


646 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


follow. Strieber does not cry out ‘You’ll make me a vegetable’, or 
‘You will ruin my mind’ but rather he is most concerned with how 
‘beautiful’ his mind is, and that they will ruin it — the beauty of 
his mind. 

This is borne out by an interview Strieber gave in 2009: 

I told them they would ruin a beautiful mind if they did that. 
And it is. It’s a wonderful — I have a wonderful mind. 

Veritas, “Chosen: The Abduction Special, Part II”, 26 June 2009 
[-10:13] https://youtu.be/_4avrWuGXno?t=iomi3s 

[40] “Angels, Aliens, and Archetypes” from 1987 conference. Available 
in unknowncountry.com subscriber section. 

[41] Dreamland, “Betty Andreasson Luca: Close Encounter”, 23 Apr 
2005 [~3i:35] 

[42] Anne’s Diary, “Ogham” 18 Oct 2011 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/diary/ogham 

[43] Subscriber special, “Steven Sora: The Templars and the Master of 
the Key”, 16 Apr 2005 [-22:10] 

EMOTIONALITY 

[return to section] 

[44] The Agony Column Podcast, “A 2008 Interview with Whitley Strie- 
ber, Part 1”, 16 Jun 2008 [-16:10]: 

I think it’s my wife’s vision of me, Wylie Dale. I think I built 
Wylie Dale out of Anne’s response to me. 

[45] Larry King is discussed, for example, in Whitley’s Journal, “The 
Anguish and Pain of My Rape”, 5 Aug 2009: 

I will never forget the shock that went through me when Larry 
King laughed in my face. It was ghastly to be laughed at for 
something that terrible. Even now, I can remember the dense 


647 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


odor of his breath, and how I almost vomited in his face. To his 
credit, he had me on his program a number of times afterward, 
and he gradually came to realize that I am no liar, and to sense 
that there was more to my story — more pain to it — than I was 
revealing to him. 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/anguish-and-pain-my- 

rape 

Matt Lauer is often mentioned by Strieber, always in the context 
of resentment at Lauer’s ‘sneering’ or ‘scoffing’ at Strieber and Art 
Bell during their The Today Show appearance promoting The Coming 
Global Superstorm. That appearance can be seen here: 

https://youtu.be/7JDjz3-Q4vo 

[46] Hodgman’s ‘TED Talk’ seems to have been given in 2008. But it 
was evidently replayed on NPR in January 2015 when it came to 
Strieber’s notice. Strieber complains about Hodgman’s ridicule of 
him in The Super Natural: 

As recently as January of 2015, the comedian John Hodgman de- 
livered a Whitley Strieber rectal probe joke on the Ted Radio Hour. 
He framed it in the context of having seen the film adaptation 
of Communion. But prior to discoursing on the movie, such as it 
was, he was careful to deliver the identifying Whitley Strieber 
catchphrase, “rectal probes.” He concluded his description of 
having seen the movie in a venue where it never actually played 
with the line, “Whitley Strieber was played by Christopher 
Walken. The aliens were played by rubber puppets.” 

The close encounter witnesses are among the last minority 
groups that can be humiliated without penalty. I curse my own 
ineptitude in having come up with that phrase “rectal probe.” 
(ch 18) 

Of course, Strieber did not “come up” with the term rectal probe. It 
was in use in print many decades before Communion. Interestingly, 
if one does a Google Ngram view of the term “rectal probe”, its 
use in print seems to reach its peak in 1995 before a steady decline. 
Doing the same Ngram view of the name “Strieber” shows a peak 


648 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


in 1998 before a steady decline: 

https://books. google. com/ngrams/graph?content=rectal+probe&case_ 

insensitive=on&year_start=i940&year_end=2008&corpus=i5&smo 

othing=3&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Crectal%20probe%3B%2Cc 

0%3B%2Cso%3B%3Brectal%20probe%3B%2Cco%3B%3BRectal%20 

probe%3B%2Cco%3B%3BRectal%20Probe%3B%2Cco 

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=strieber&case_ 

insensitive=on&year_start=i940&year_end=2008&corpus=i5&smoothing 

=3&share=&direct_url=t4%3B%2Cstrieber%3B%2Cco%3B%2Cso%3B%3B 

Strieber%3B%2Cco%3B%3BSTRIEBER%3B%2Cco 

[47] Night Fright, 18 May 2011 [-50:15] 

[48] [Confirm Anne Strieber comment about kitchen fires] Anne Strieber 
called her husband “clumsy” more than once: “Whitley is efficient, 
but clumsy” in Anne’s Diary, “Blue Pills, Blue Beads. ..and Seeing the 
Visitors”, 13 Aug 2014; and “Part of what I do is watch my clumsy 
husband lurch around” in Anne’s Diary, “Cheer Up!”, 6 Jun 2015. 

[49] Anne’s Diary, “A Trip to Esalen”, 27 May 2010: 

A woman named Vicky gave us a copy of her book, which is 
titled “The Secret Life of Puppets.” I laughed when I saw the 
title after I got home and was shelving our new books, because 
Whitley has, for some reason, always been TERRIFIED of pup- 
pets, especially those Charlie McCarthy-type “dummies” with 
clacking jaws. He’ll do almost anything to avoid a ventriloquist: 
Once on Fifth Avenue in New York, we once encountered a white 
ventriloquist with a black dummy that kept shouting racial ep- 
ithets at the white people walking past (it was hilarious) while 
walking to our favorite bookstore. I turned my head to make a 
comment about it to Whitley and suddenly realized that I was 
alone: he had quietly and quickly gotten the hell out of there and 
crossed to the other side of the street. 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/diary/trip - esalen 

[50] [Confirm comment about being easily hypnotized] Strieber relives 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


his past life memories of ancient Rome and of being in the early 
Christian church in a subscriber special called “Whitley’s Past Life 
Regression” dated 15 Dec 2007. At one point, he is able to tell the 
hypnotist he is hypnotized and is able to follow the hypnotist’s 
instructions without needing to be told ‘1..2..3’. [-10:15] 

[51] Strieber has likened himself to a “soldier” more than once: 

Coast to Coast AM, 09 Apr 1997 [-37:15]: 

I’ve known for a long time and my whole family has that we’re 
soldiers fighting in a war. And I can tell you right now that I 
expect to continue to fight until I can’t. Period. 

Coast to Coast AM, 27 Jul 1998 [-1:17:10]: 

[Bell: Do you have any idea why you have been chosen for all this 
to occur to you?] You know, I never think about it. I just — I’m 
like a soldier in a battle. 

A more inclusive version of the characterization appears in the 
final chapter of Confirmation (1998): 

A new world awaits, one that offers access not only to such 
things as the breathtaking propulsion system used by the vis- 
itors but also to age-old secrets such as whether a soul exists 
and, if so, then the potential to enter its world in a scientifically 
meaningful way. I suspect that we stand ready, most of us, to 
offer everything we possess to this effort. We are soldiers, it 
would seem, drafted into a war. Ours is the cause of a human 
future in the stars, and it is a struggle that we must not lose, for 
if we do lose it, then the glory that is the human mind will never 
be expressed fully and properly into the universe, and the goal 
for which we were doubtless created will not be fulfilled. 

In a 2 Sep 2006 live chat for subscribers, Strieber wrote: 

Whitley_Strieber: I have to do what I am doing. I signed on for 
this, and part of the agreement was that I would do a soldier’s 
duty. 


650 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


Even during a past life regression, Strieber seemed to think of 
himself as a soldier. In a subscriber special called “Whitley’s Past 
Life Regression” dated 15 Dec 2007, Strieber is asked to contact his 
guardian angel and to describe his impressions. 

[-26:00] She finds me really funny. She’s really amused by me. 
[...] Follows me and Anne. She’s also had relations.. .been related 
to Anne. And brought us together. Knew us both and brought 
us together. [...] She was not in the physical world when she 
did that, but she did. She is saying to me I remember too much 
and not enough. [...] It’s more serious now. [...] The seriousness 
comes from the fact that what I am is a soldier. I am a clever 
soldier. I am doing the ... clever soldier work. [..] What I’m seeing 
is planting seeds and getting beat up. For a long time. 

STRATEGIC 

[return to section) 

[52] Night Fright, 18 May 2011 [-37:10] 

[53] The Unexplained 196, 9 Mar 2015 [-31:00] 

[54] Spooky Southcoast, 28 May 2011 [-43:00] 

[ 55 ] Whitley’s Journal, “The Secret of Real Faith”, 6 Apr 2004 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/secret-real-faith 

[56] OffPlanet Radio, “Whitley Strieber: The Communion Enigma”, 28 
Mar 2012, Hr l [-13:00] 

[57] Coast to Coast AM, 27 Jul 1998 [-58:45] 

[58] Insight, “My Catholic Struggle”, 9 Dec 2011 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/insight/my-catholic-struggle- 

whitley-strieber 

[59] In Conroy’s Report on Communion, Strieber’s high school teacher 
Brother Martin McMurtrey is quoted as saying of Strieber: “Well, 
he was always interested in the occult” (69). The mother of one of 
Strieber’s childhood friends said of Strieber and his friends: “They 


651 


PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


were crazy about spaceships, aliens, and the whole idea of space 
travel. In fact, I remember having to take Whitley home in the 
middle of the night because he was afraid the spacemen were going 
to come and get him” (45). 

[60] Coast to Coast AM, 28 Nov 1996 [-2:53:30] 

[61] Paratopia 116, 13 May 2011 [-42:00] 

[62] To explain Strieber, one is tempted to introduce a distinction be- 
tween earnestness and honesty. Strieber is crushingly earnest, as 
shown by how painfully well-spoken he is and his presentation as 
a modest, compassionate man. But he is far from honest. This is 
the inescapable conclusion of a close study of his work. 

TOWARD A THEORY OF STRIEBER'S WORK 

[return to section! 

[63] As to a political career, Strieber has said: 

[-40:40] Because after all, prior to this, I was even being thought 
of politically very seriously by people. Because of War Day, Na- 
ture’s End, and these books. They were wanting me to attempt 
- several people wanting me to attempt a political trajectory. 
That was ended by the Communion experience. Writing and pub- 
lishing Communion absolutely brought it to an end. It brought 
all of my relationships in politics to an end. And I come from 
a political family, a democratic family that goes way back in 
Texas, all the way back to before the Civil War. And I definitely 
could have done something quite significant on the political 
front if I had been given the chance. This interrupted that. It 
marginalized me. Therefore I didn’t get to do what I wanted to 
do. And maybe if I had, this world would be a different place. I 
don’t know. (Paratopia 116) 

As for joining the CIA, Strieber tells the following story: 

[-13:45] The next year I was interested in the possibility of 
joining the CIA. I was a college student and looking for a career. 
And it was fascinating. They used to advertise in The Daily Texan 


652 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


all the time. So I decided to recruit for this. And I went to the 
little office that they had and signed some forms and so forth 
and so on. My father then called me. You notice there’s been 
no communication between me and my father about this. And 
he says, why would you want to do this, to join the CIA? And I 
said, well, I thought it would be interesting. And he said: well, 
it’s not interesting at all. He was far as I knew a lawyer in San 
Antonio, didn’t have any connection at all with the CIA. Then 
about a week after that I received a telephone call based on this 
submission of this application — could I meet for breakfast at 
the student union with a gentleman? I said of course, I was glad 
to. And this little, pinched-up man, chain smoking, you could 
smoke in places anywhere in those days, was there. And he told 
me basically that the CIA was a dangerous place for me to be, 
and I shouldn’t try to pursue the application. And he wouldn’t 
tell me why. And so I took that advice. I didn’t know who I was 
talking to. I’d never seen this man before in my life. It was a 
very scary sort of situation. He was a pleasant man, but he was 
pretty insistent and it just scared the devil out of me. So I aban- 
doned my application. I didn’t join. 

[Do you think it was Angleton?] 

Well, twenty years later, I happened to see a picture of Angleton 
in the paper. And it was him. It was definitely him. Because 
that’s an unmistakeable face. You don’t forget that face. I re- 
ported all this in one of my books or somewhere. And Angleton’s 
nephew wrote me, indicating that he was aware of the fact that 
Angleton had indeed had some kind of connection with UFOs. 
But there was something — what I’m telling you is only parts of 
a story, obviously, because I don’t know the whole story. But it 
dovetails very eerily. Because my dad obviously had some sort of 
foreknowledge of the assassination. [...] 

Subscribers special, “James J. Angleton, UFOs and JFK”, 20 Sep 
2008 

[64] One despairs after a certain point in finding anything like factual 
consistency in Strieber. For example, in Solving the Communion 
Enigma, Strieber begins the fourth chapter by writing: “In 1994, 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Anne and I left our cabin in upstate New York for the last time”. 

But here is Strieber in Confirmation starting his account of how an 
implant was forcibly inserted into his ear: 

The night of May 24, 1995, was cool but still at our cabin in 
upstate New York, and we left our bedroom windows opened. 
[...] I had been sleeping lightly but peacefully when, at 3:15, I 
heard the distinctive sound of car tires crunching on our gravel 
driveway outside, (ch 18) 

Thus determining when Strieber ‘lost’ the cabin is not simple. 
In The Super Natural, Strieber places the implant event five years 
earlier: 

The next month, in May of 1989, I had an experience that com- 
pletely changed my understanding of what was happening to me. 
[...] The event that took place on that night in May changed all 
this. At this moment, I reach up, I touch my left ear, and I feel, 
over a quarter of a century later, the same agonizing nakedness 
and vulnerability I felt when I first realized that it was there. 

Late May of that year was warm, and we slept with the windows 
open. At about eleven thirty, Anne was asleep. [...] 

It can truly be said that along with the other problems with 
Strieber, one of the most trying for his readers and, ultimately, 
for him is that he approaches his non-fiction like a fiction writer. 
Basic accuracy is routinely overcome by the need to tell a taut, 
encapsulated narrative. This combined with Strieber’s supreme 
mental flexibility, his ability to justify practically everything and 
to always invent plausible reasons, renders his work unworkable. 
In Confirmation, for example, the year given for the implant ordeal 
is not a simple typographical error. Strieber has a narrative built 
around it. The paragraph just prior: 

Then an event took place that continues to haunt me. I have 
never recorded it before because it happened after Breakthrough 
was finished and there was no place for it in my book about 
childhood, The Secret School. But I have spoken about it in lec- 


654 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


tures and have thought a great deal about it. 

Consider: if the implant episode happened in 1989 as Strieber 
writes in The Super Natural, how could he write the above with such 
earnestness and human plausibility? 

Confirmation was published in 1998. In it, Strieber is putting the 
implant episode at just three years before (perhaps even two years 
before if Strieber were writing in 1997). Yet it appears the event 
more likely took place nearly ten years before in 1989. One must 
eventually realize that Strieber’s unending earnestness exists 
alongside a not particularly strong concern with the facts. And 
given that Strieber often insists he is drawing no conclusions from 
his experiences and is simply presenting them as experiences as 
accurately as he can, that they are presented with the same casual 
carelessness that others might present their own personal memo- 
ries is quite incredible. 

[65] The Agony Column Podcast with Rick Kleffel, “A 2012 Interview 
with Whitley Strieber”, 12 Mar 2012 -51:30: 

What happened was this. Communion was initially was received 
very kindly by the public. They were very interested in it. But 
then, they expected an alien to land. I mean, they really did. 
Because people’s imaginations and their ratiocination are not 
sophisticated. And they tend to be very passive and to wait for 
everything. And so, the result was when that didn’t happen, they 
turned away and just lost interest in me. And a few books later, 
I was desperately trying to keep my head above water. Because 
you know, you stop selling books and eventually the publishers 
stop publishing you. And by the early nineties, after the book 
Confirmation failed — came out and had a dismal sale, I was 
unable to publish anything. And the result was, I lost essentially 
everything. I lost our house, I lost our apartment in New York. I 
lost it all. And ended up, in a car packed with luggage, with my 
wife heading back to San Antonio from whence I had arisen to 
a little condo that we owned that my mother had lived in before 
she died and we still were holding on to. That was where we 
ended up. 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


[66] As Strieber writes in Solving the Communion Enigma: 

But now, as I turned down Route 209 for the last time, and that 
beloved spot, so sacred to me, slipped away behind us, I had to 
ask myself: Why had people stopped buying my books? 

It was not my fault, I knew that, but that wasn’t how it felt. [...] 

(ch 4) 

Unable to entertain the idea that he might have done anything dif- 
ferently at any point, Strieber always places the blame everywhere 
else: 

However, what happened to me stands as a most unusual human 
experience, and what has happened to all of us as a most valu- 
able one. I got the feeling that there was marvelous knowledge 
being squandered by arrogant scientists, a frightened and secre- 
tive government, clownish media and a public led by all of the 
snickering and denial into a state of indifference. 

Whitley’s Journal, “The Grays”, 27 Jul 2006 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/grays 

[67] One can choose a point at random on Strieber’s website, look in any 
direction, and find him airing such grievances. During the 2004 US 
presidential election, for example, Strieber wrote a piece about a 
certain John O’Neill, who was at that time attacking candidate John 
Kerry. Strieber claimed to have known O’Neill, and in the middle of 
disputing O’Neills charges against Kerry, Strieber wrote: 

This is probably why the visitors landed in my lap. Who or whatever 
they are, they knew that I would feel obligated to tell what I had 
seen and that, while I might not tell it right, at least I would never lie. 
Rather than keep that important event to myself and stay a part of 
the mainstream, I came forward with my truth and consigned myself 
to the margins of our intellectual and political life, an outsider, easily 
scorned and dismissed. 

But I have at least retained my personal integrity, which I will die 
with. I would rather have that, any day, that any power earned by a lie. 


656 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


What a damning testament it is against our decadent age that one 
of two old friends would come forward with what is probably one 
of the most important truths in the history of this species, and be 
marginalized for it and made a figure of fun, while the other comes 
forward with a lie and is made a hero for it, likely to be granted great 
power and heaped with honors. 

Insight, “My High School Friend John O’Neill and the Swiftboat 
Attack”, 21 Aug 2004 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/insight/my-high-school-friend- 

john-oneill-and-swiftboat-attack 

The same goes for his interviews. In this Glastonbury Podcast 
interview from February 2011, Strieber says: 

[-18:30] The established world does not want people like me to 
connect with anybody. They want me to be laughed off the stage 
of life and forgotten. 

In his 2011 interview with George Knapp on Coast to Coast AM, 
Strieber said: 

[-3:50] In general, I’m tuned out. I don’t exist. You’re not going 
to hear anything about Whitley Strieber in the New York Times or 
anywhere like that. [...] The average person no longer knows I 
even exist. (19 Jun 2011 hr 4) 

Strieber talks of how he is regarded in this Off Planet Radio inter- 
view from 28 Mar 2012: 

[-12:35] They hate me. They hate me. I’m like a viral particle. 

Strieber’s feelings of victimization extend to what he calls “social 
engineering” or public campaigns against him: 

Recently I have been thinking about social engineering and how 
it is used to discredit UFO and close encounter witnesses. I have 
been a major victim of this, of course, as the most visible advo- 
cate on behalf of the value of what the close encounter witnesses 
are reporting. [...] 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


Some of the attacks are not ‘natural’ social engineering. Some 
are very intentionally contrived. I am one of the victims of this, 
but hardly the only one. In 1998, for example, Parade Magazine 
published a false story about me to the effect that I had discov- 
ered that I had temporal lobe epilepsy and made a contribution 
to the epilepsy foundation. This story was published just before 
the release of my book Confirmation. At that time, Parade was 
still a major factor in the public forum. 

I believe that the story was a lie, not a mistake. The reason for 
this is that, when I called Parade and talked to an editor, he 
told me that they had gotten it from a friend of mine in the Air 
Force. Confirmation is quite critical of the USAF’s role in the UFO 
controversy. Parade ran a retraction, but by then it was too late. 
The book had a disastrous sale. 

I think that article was placed by professional social engineers 
who continue to play a huge role in the UFO community. 

Whitley’s Journal, “Social Engineering and the Persecution of UFO 
and Close Encounter Witnesses”, 18 Apr 2013 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/social-engineering-and- 

persecution-ufo-and-close-encounter-witnesses 

And when typographical errors are found in Strieber’s books, 
Strieber suspects foul play, as in this ‘Live Chat’ on Strieber’s 
website dated 2 Sep 2006: 

kl759: Loved the book. Stayed up until 4:00 in the morning 
reading it. Will there be a sequel? BTW, the typos were not a 
distraction. Your work shines through! 

Whitley_Strieber: Thanks for your comment about the typos. 
As I corrected them all in my proofs, I assume that there was 
sabotage at the printers. Anybody involved in my stuff will take 
it on themselves to do harm. This is why so many Barnes and 
Nobles and Borders are not displaying the book. Clerks see the 
name and respond to a deep, unrecognized urge to not let this 
cat out of the bag. But if it doesn’t get out, we are going to lose 


658 


PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


big time. Big, big time. The visitors are the only chance we have, 
scary though they may be. 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/sites/default/files/subscribers/ 
specialcollection/unknowncountry _chat_09_02_06.pdf 

[68] Whitley’s Journal, “Ringing the Dreamland Changes”, 18 Nov 2002 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/ringing-dreamland-changes 

On the question of Strieber’s book sales, perhaps worth noting is 
what James Landis had to say in Conroy’s Report on Communion. 
According to Conroy, Landis was the publisher who “personally 
handled the purchase of Communion” and who was “intimately 
involved with launching Strieber’s literary career” (12). Asking 
Landis about the book sales of Strieber’s Transformation in com- 
parison to Communion, Landis said: 

It’s not selling as well, but it would have been an exception if it 
had. Whether it was a strict sequel or not, it’s perceived as such, 
and the rule of thumb in publishing (which there will always 
be exceptions to) is that a sequel does about half of what the 
original does. (17) 

One could easily see the natural tendency of sequels combined with 
Strieber’s failure to produce the visitors as the main reason for his 
declining book sales. 

[69] Whitley’s Journal, “The Anguish and Pain of My Rape”, 5 Aug 2009 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/anguish-and-pain-my-rape 

[70] Paratopia 91, “Whitley Strieber Returns”, 18 Nov 2010 [-21:25] 

[71] Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell, “Alien Contact”, 28 Nov 1996 
[-2:31:50] and [-2:34:25] 

[72] Paratopia 91 [-21:00] 

[73] Night Fright, 18 May 2011 [~6:oo] 

[74] The Unexplained 196 [-35:45] 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


[75] Sean Casteel, UFO Magazine, “Q&A: Strieber Sounds Off”, Sept/Oct 
1993 , Vol. 8, No. 5 retrieved from beyondcommunion.com 

[76] The development of the rape-victim element of Strieber’s narrative 
seems to start in 2003 when Strieber received an email from a 
reader saying that what Strieber described in Communion, which 
included rectal penetration, erection, and ejaculation, correspond- 
ed to a process in animal husbandry involving a device called an 
‘electroejaculator’. With a name finally put to the device, it seemed 
to solidify two things in Strieber’s mind: the sexual aspect of the 
originally confusing, chaotic experience; and that he was a victim. 
Strieber announced his new conclusion in his Journal of 16 Oct 2003 
entitled “A Personal Breakthrough: A Huge Question Answered”. 

The Journal entry shows quite clearly what was at stake for Strieber 
with this new ‘discovery’. Much of the entry is a jeremiad against 
the abuse Strieber believes he suffered including rectal probe jokes, 
government interference, and his declining book sales. This is the 
context in which Strieber arrives at his new perspective on what 
happened in that episode. The entry marks a key point in Strieber’s 
narrative where one can see a new personal ‘truth’ constructed 
and lock into place. 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/personal-breakthrough-huge- 

question-answered 

Strieber’s ‘reasoning’, of course, was something as follows: a) the 
rectal probe episode, its meaning could now be thought of as pri- 
marily sexual: the device had a name as a tool meant to elicit ejac- 
ulation; b) Strieber was a victim in general, victimized in so many 
other respects; c) therefore Strieber was now also a rape victim. 

Rather than shy away from this new ‘reality’, Strieber sprang 
into action, incorporating it into his narrative while claiming the 
opposite: that it was a conclusion he had known about but avoided. 
Indeed, being strategic, Strieber appeared to announce on every 
interview that he had been ‘raped’, to two basic effects. It had the 
effect of disarming his audience unaccustomed to hearing a man 
so openly admit he was ‘raped’ and also of garnering sympathy. In 
this way, the new rape-victim element of Strieber’s narrative was 
multi-purpose as by it he represented to himself a very personal 


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truth and at the same time advanced his public mission. 

Consider also the narrative dimension in Strieber’s description in 
The Super Natural: 

Whatever happened to me on the night of December 26, 1985, 
there was enough physical trauma to send me to the doctor a 
few days later, who observed that I had been raped. Unfortu- 
nately for me, I was so humiliated by this that I described it in 
Communion — delicately, I thought — as a “rectal probe.” (ch 2) 

Strieber attempts a similar maneuver in this interview (Paratopia 
116), again saying that it had been rape to him all along: 

[~io:io] I was literally raped. And it wasn’t so easy to deal with 
this. Which is why in the book Communion I said simply, oh, I 
had a rectal probe. The result was I ended up getting laughed at 
up and down the creation for being raped, which is something 
you don’t want to have happen to you It’s very damaging to your 
well-being to be raped and to be humiliated and injured that 
badly and then just have everybody — just choruses of laughter. 
It was hard. It was my fault. Because I just didn’t — I couldn’t 
say it. And part of the reason I couldn’t say it was that if I said 
it, then I’d have to face the element of absolute physicality that 
is connected with this experience. 

It is obvious from Strieber’s 2003 Journal entry and other writings 
that Strieber was not minimizing the rape aspect in Communion, 
“delicately” calling what was used on him a “rectal probe”. Rather, 
he only decided what happened to him was unambiguously a rape 
years later and read this and his own knowledge of the ‘fact’ ret- 
rospectively back into his narrative. 

[76a] The Agony Column Podcast with Rick Kleffel, “A 2012 Interview 
with Whitley Strieber”, 12 Mar 2012 [-38:48] 

[77] Posting to the forum at davidicke.com in 2014, a reader claims to 
have gotten his copy of The Key from a certain Larry Swearingen, a 
man convicted of murder in Texas and on death row. In the read- 
er’s post, he expresses his own doubts about the book: 


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PERISTALSIS: A DIGEST VOL. 143 NO. 2 


http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/ 

search?q=cache:itJWY9K7ercJ:www.davidicke.com/forum/showthread.php 

[78] https://web.archive.0rg/web/20120804045247/http://www. 
communionenigma.com/questions-answers/ 

[79] Retrieved from beyondcommunion.com. Strieber wrote on the 
unknowncountry.com message board in 2004: 

I’m working on fiction about the grays now. I’ve discovered that 
there’s a LOT down inside me that comes slipping out when I 
am in the trance-like state that writing fiction involves. [...] I 
think you’ll find it interesting. What I am after is getting my 
inner self to tell me what I really know about the grays, and 
keep hidden. There is no way to do this in nonfiction. But in a 
novel, it will come out. (5 Oct 2004) 

The book about the Grays is an attempt to access meaning at 
a deeper level. I am hoping that facts will emerge through the 
fictional process. I am convinced that there is a lot I know — and 
everybody knows — that we cannot put into words. But MAYBE, 
if I write fiction about the grays, I will expose some of that 
hidden material that I know is there, but have never been able 
to say. (11 Oct 2004) 

What are they, I wonder? At least, on the surface of my mind, 
I wonder. I’m hoping that the sort of incantational sense that 
comes from writing fiction — storytelling — will allow some of 
the hidden truth to emerge into the book. I think we all know 
what this is, every one of us, including the people who think 
that they have no connection with it, or who know nothing 
about it at all. The question is, where, in our inner beings, do 
we find the truth.. .and why have we hidden it from ourselves so 
totally? (10 Oct 2004) 

Strieber also wrote on the communionenigma.com site: 

Regarding fiction, I write a sort of ‘secret fiction’ that contains 
triggers that are designed to enhance memory. The books 
appear to be ordinary thrillers, but they have a sub-rosa mo- 


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PROBLEMS WITH STRIEBER AND THE KEY 


tivation, which is to shake loose memories in my readers. To 
do this, I try to capture in the fiction the flavor of experiences 
that remain almost impossible to articulate. But if I can build 
imaginary worlds that cause a similar ‘flavor’ to emerge in the 
reader’s mind, then perhaps there will be an ‘aha’ moment, and 
another inward step taken in the journey to understanding. 

https://web.archive.0rg/web/20120804045247/http://www. 

communionenigma.com/questions-answers/ 

[80] Whitley’s Journal, “The Grays”, 27 Jul 2006 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/grays 

[81] Observation first made by Western Australia’s leading Strieber 
expert, B. MacGabhann 

[82] Whitley’s Journal, “Christmas Joy: Mankind is Awakening”, 14 Dec 
2001 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/christmas-joy-mankind- 

awakening 

[83] In Transformation, where the story first appears, and in Break- 
through, Strieber says that there was a tenth and final ‘dou- 
ble-knock’. But in most tellings, as for example in his 1987 Angels, 
Aliens, and Archetypes talk, he tells only of the nine knocks. 

[84] http://www.unknowncountry.com/dreamland/spells-energies-and-dark- 
wisdom 

[85] Anne’s Diary, “Anne’s Diary Starts Again”, 7 Dec 2016 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/diary/annes-diary-starts-again 

[86] Whitley’s Journal, “The Unexpected Value of Fear in Deepening 
Close Encounter”, 16 Dec 2016 

http://www.unknowncountry.com/journal/role-fear-deepening-close- 

encounter 


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